Boys basketball: Troy Christian, Russia win D-IV district titles

DAYTON — Troy Christian head coach Ray Zawadzki scouted Riverview East and saw a quick, trapping defensive team. He couldn’t replicate that with five second-teamers in practice.

He remembered a strategy from many years ago when he was coaching at Vandalia Butler and Tippecanoe. They prepared for games against Trotwood-Madison and Cincinnati Taft by putting six defenders on the floor. He tried that with his current team, and after his first five scored a couple times, he added a seventh. Finally, against nine defenders, they went down the floor and made a layup.

“I stopped it and said, ‘Do you realize you just made a layup against nine defenders?” Zawadzki said. “And they all looked at me like no, because they’re just focused on their responsibilities. I said, ‘If you can score against nine, just think how easy it’s going to be against five.”

On Wednesday night, it was Riverview who felt like they were playing against nine. The Eagles attacked the pressure, made layups, hit open jumpers and ran the Hawks off the UD Arena floor, 58-32, in a Division IV district final. It’s the Eagles’ third district title and first since winning in 2013 and 2014.

“We set a goal this year to make it to UD Arena,” said Eagles leading scorer Parker Penrod, who scored 16 points. “And we all said when we came to UD Arena, we weren’t coming here just to make it to UD. We were coming here to win.”

The Eagles (23-3) backed up their No. 4 state ranking with an 11-0 start that put Riverview (24-2) on its back. The Hawks settled for a while and cut the Eagles’ lead to 19-13. But a 14-0 run to close the half and a 15-of-19 shooting performance put the Eagles up 33-13 at halftime.

“We came out with our heads on fire,” Penrod said. “We were ready. We prepared all week for this. And we knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we trusted each other, we believe in each other, and we got it done.”

Alex Free scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Eagles, and Frank Rupnik added 10 points and six rebounds. Free got open on a backdoor cut in the second half for a two-handed dunk on a pass from Rupnik that the student section loved.

“Super excited,” Free said. “Got everybody on their feet, and gave us energy. It was sweet.”

Next for the Eagles in the regional semifinals at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Trent Arena is No. 6 Russia. The Eagles lost to Russia 72-46 on Dec. 17.

“I think we all know as D-IV coaches that Russia and Jackson Center are on a crash course to see who goes to state,” Zawadzki said. “‘In 30 years of coaching, I’ve been able to recover from eight-point beatings or 12-point defeats, but 26, that’s a big task.”

Russia 70, Catholic Central 58: The Raiders got Catholic Central star Tyler Galluch, the DIV Southwest District player of the year, in early foul trouble, maintained a lead and pulled away by making 14 of 18 free throws in the final minute.

Galluch scored 15 of his 20 in the second half to go with 17 by Cole Ray, but Russia’s balanced attack that lends itself to different leading scorers night to night was a big factor. Braylon Cordonnier scored 22, Benjamin York 17 and Brayden Monnin 10.

“I told Braylon, my son, and the other guys that were going to be in the post, let’s make him work,” Russia coach Spencer Cordonnier said. “We talk about how he is on offense all the time. Let’s make him guard. Let’s see what he’s got inside there. Let’s attack him and let’s test him out.”

Russia (23-3) continues to ride the emotion that began two weeks before the first day of practice when head coach Dave Borchers died from injuries suffered in a car accident. Cordonnier, who had previously been head coach, was Borchers’ top assistant and took the role of interim head coach.

“These guys have been very resilient all year, and Dave and I had seen this coming last summer,” Cordonnier said. “And they were starting to buy in on what we were wanting to do and the way we needed to play.”

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