But Madison coach Jeff Smith said the key to the win was second-half defense, which was led by Limon, Tyler Baumgartner and Kevin Duritsch off the bench.
“I thought those kids really turned the game for us just defending the way they did,” Smith said. “We didn’t play any defense in the first half. We played a lot in the second half.
“We challenged the kids at halftime because we weren’t guarding. I was pretty angry. I said, ‘When we have 30 points at halftime, we’re usually in great shape. But they’re on pace to get 80 points, boys.’ We made a few personnel changes that really sparked us.”
The Mohawks erased a 39-30 halftime deficit with a 16-4 third quarter. Miami Valley (2-4) drilled eight 3-pointers in the opening two periods, but didn’t make any in the second half.
Madison will play Cincinnati Christian, a 66-48 winner over Talawanda in Thursday’s nightcap, for the Classic championship on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Mohawks have knocked off CCS in the title game the last two seasons.
“We knew Miami Valley was good because they had losses to Oakwood and Stivers,” Smith said. “I thought we might be in trouble. Those three scorers are a handful.”
Casey Gossett (25), Marc Williams (18) and Lennox Roberts (11) combined for all but three of the Rams’ points. Williams had three treys in the first six-plus minutes of the game.
So what happened in the second half?
“We were not disciplined on offense,” Miami Valley coach Greg Felder said. “This is about the third game where we’ve played a team that’s in a higher division than us and we had a lead in the third quarter and let it go because we started forcing shots and doing things that we know better than to do.
“In the first half, maybe Madison took us for granted a little bit. I told our guys at halftime to get ready because they’re going to come after us. They don’t want to lose to a Division IV school. They played harder, and our guys did not withstand it very well. We were standing around in the second half. We just got stagnant.”
Madison opened the game in a zone, and that didn’t work very well. The Mohawks switched to man-to-man, and that didn’t work very well. Man-to-man was the right defense, but what they needed was different personnel on the floor, and Smith took that route in the second half.
Limon, mostly a junior varsity player last season, had never scored more than six points in a varsity game before Thursday.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Limon said of his offensive outburst. “I just felt good, I guess. I felt confident and trusted my teammates, and they got me the ball and I capitalized on my opportunities.
“I’ve got to thank my teammates, and I’ve got to thank my parents for getting me into this sport. I’ve been a bench player all year, and I’ve been working to get my opportunity. Once it came, it was good.”
Smith said Limon’s defensive work against Roberts, who was limited to a pair of free throws after halftime, was even more important than his scoring.
“Ethan’s been on a roll to where he’s been our sixth man, and we tell him he may be getting starter minutes because of the way he’s been playing,” Smith said. “He’s a kid that had a football injury and never got to play a down of football this year. He’s really worked hard on his game for us.”
Cincinnati Christian’s Dylan Woods tries to dribble past Talawanda’s Josh DeWitt (33) and Evan James (0) on Thursday night during the Brian Cook Classic at Madison. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Duritsch contributed eight points and six rebounds for Madison, while Limon had four boards and three assists. Mason Whiteman chipped in five points, four caroms and four assists.
The Rams made the Mohawks work for the win in the fourth period. It was still a one-possession game with under two minutes remaining, thanks in part to Madison’s 9-of-20 showing at the foul line.
Gossett and Alec Martin both grabbed eight rebounds for Miami Valley, a member of the Metro Buckeye Conference.
“Miami Valley’s history, unfortunately, is that they haven’t had winning teams,” said Felder, in his first year at the helm after working as a volunteer assistant with the Rams the last two seasons. “So I think these guys are still learning how to win games. It’s much more mental than physical.
“They’re still trying to do the things that we ask them to do. I really like this group. I’m optimistic that by the time we hit late January and early February, we’ll catch our stride and maybe make some noise in the tournament.”
Cincinnati Christian dominated the final three quarters against Talawanda (3-5) after trailing 12-10 at the first stop.
Daniel Nimmo (14), Christian Keese (13), Dylan Woods (11) and Josh Oates (10) topped the scoring for the Cougars, who took advantage of 22 turnovers and 33.3-percent shooting by the Braves.
“Starting slow has been our Achilles heel,” CCS coach Carl Woods said. “You would think it’s not jitters because I have a senior-laden team. For some odd reason, we come out slow and then pick it up.”
Asked about his team’s 6-1 start, Woods replied, “I would say I’m happy, but not satisfied. We’re not playing anywhere near our potential yet.”
Justin Boggs paced Talawanda with 11 points and four assists. Evan James and Ty Hornsby added eight points apiece, and Andrew O’Donnel snared a team-high six rebounds.
James went out with an ankle injury midway through the third quarter. Braves coach Eddie Glaser didn’t know after the game if James would be available for Friday’s 6 p.m. consolation matchup against Miami Valley.
Glaser admitted he didn’t see this performance coming. Talawanda brought a three-game winning streak into the Classic.
“You would hope after three wins that no matter what happened, we would respond the right way when we hit adversity. But we didn’t do that tonight,” Glaser said. “Turnovers were a big part of it. I think it kind of compounded throughout the game, and we just got down too much.
“Offensively, (Cincinnati Christian is) a tremendous team. You have to game plan for so many different guys. I challenged our guys to give the best defensive performance of the season because I knew how dangerous they were on offense. For whatever reason, we didn’t rise to the occasion. Give all the credit in the world to them. At the same time, I do feel that our guys are better defenders than what we showed.”
Cincinnati Christian shot 48.3 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from 3-point range (6 of 14). Nick Hesselgesser collected 10 rebounds and blocked three shots for the Cougars, while Dylan Woods added four assists and three steals.
Nimmo, a senior forward, did not start the game. He had two steals, and his point total was a career-best effort.
“I was feeling good,” Nimmo said. “We have a lot of weapons. We have like 14 guys that could come in at any time and start scoring.”
Carl Woods praised what he called “big minutes” from Riley Reutener (four points, seven rebounds, three steals, two assists) and Cameron Rogers (four points).
“Some of our substitution patterns were a little off because we had some discipline things going on. We had a couple guys that didn’t get back from break on time,” Woods said. “I think that contributed to the slow start.”
CCS figures it has a Classic score to settle with Madison. The Mohawks took the crown with a 53-51 double-overtime win last year after beating the Cougars 39-25 in the 2014 championship game.
“Losing to Madison three straight years in the championship is something we don’t want to happen,” Nimmo said. “We’re going to come out hard and try to finish it tomorrow. I feel confident.”
“I told the guys, ‘Let’s not get happy. Let’s not get excited yet,’ ” Carl Woods said. “We’re in their house, but we’re hoping we can finally get over this hump and win a championship. We’re praying for that.”
Said Smith, “Cincinnati Christian is probably the best team here. We’ll have our hands full.”
Miami Valley 19-20-4-14—57
MIAMI VALLEY (2-4): Chase Harlan 1 0 2, Alec Martin 0 1 1, Lennox Roberts 4 2 11, Marc Williams 7 0 18, Casey Gossett 10 2 25. Totals: 22-5-57
MADISON (5-3): Mason Whiteman 2 1 5, Donovan King 1 0 3, Ethan Limon 5 1 13, Matt Gomia 2 0 5, Grant Whisman 9 4 26, Ben Paarlberg 1 0 2, Kevin Duritsch 4 0 8, Tyler Baumgartner 0 3 3. Totals: 24-9-65
3-pointers: MV 8 (Williams 4, Gossett 3, Roberts), MAD 8 (Whisman 4, Limon 2, King, Gomia)
Cincinnati Christian 10-19-17-20—66
TALAWANDA (3-5): Evan James 3 0 8, Charlie Winkler 1 1 4, Kelvin Reisenfeld 1 0 2, Blake Cooke 0 2 2, Justin Boggs 3 3 11, Andrew O’Donnel 3 0 6, Ty Hornsby 4 0 8, Josh DeWitt 1 4 7. Totals: 16-10-48
CINCINNATI CHRISTIAN (6-1): Riley Reutener 2 0 4, Josh Oates 4 1 10, Stephen Lunt 0 1 1, Dylan Woods 5 0 11, Nick Hesselgesser 3 0 6, Christian Keese 6 0 13, Brady Roberts 1 0 3, Daniel Nimmo 5 2 14, Cameron Rogers 2 0 4. Totals: 28-4-66
3-pointers: T 6 (James 2, Boggs 2, Winkler, DeWitt), C 6 (Nimmo 2, Roberts, Keese, Woods, Oates)
Miami Valley’s Marc Williams is on the move against Madison’s Tyler Baumgartner during Thursday night’s Brian Cook Classic at Madison. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Miami Valley’s Lennox Roberts defends a shot by Madison’s Tyler Baumgartner during Thursday night’s Brian Cook Classic in Madison Township. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Miami Valley’s Lennox Roberts is eyed by Madison’s Ethan Limon (12) on Thursday night during the Brian Cook Classic at Madison. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Miami Valley’s Casey Gossett keeps his eye on the basket during Thursday night’s Brian Cook Classic opener against host Madison. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Madison’s Mason Whiteman (3) can’t quite block the shot of Miami Valley’s Lennox Roberts on Thursday night during the Brian Cook Classic at Madison. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Madison’s Grant Whisman cuts through Miami Valley defenders Lennox Roberts (23), Marc Williams (24), Casey Gossett (33) and Mark Kokoropoulos during Thursday night’s Brian Cook Classic at Madison. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Talawanda’s Ty Hornsby puts up a shot over Cincinnati Christian’s Christian Keese (14) on Thursday night during the Brian Cook Classic in Madison Township. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Madison’s Tyler Baumgartner dribbles up the court between Miami Valley’s Lennox Roberts (23), Chase Harlan (2) and Charlie Lyon (14) during Thursday’s game in the Brian Cook Classic at Madison. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Miami Valley’s Marc Williams defends a shot by Madison’s Grant Whisman during Thursday night’s Brian Cook Classic in Madison Township. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Miami Valley’s Chase Harlan (2, white) launches a shot over Madison’s Ryan Friend (2, red) on Thursday night during the Brian Cook Classic at Madison. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Cincinnati Christian’s Riley Reutener puts up a shot over Talawanda’s Evan James during Thursday night’s Brian Cook Classic in Madison Township. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Cincinnati Christian’s Dylan Woods puts up a shot as Talawanda’s Josh DeWitt defends during their game in the Brian Cook Classic on Thursday night at Madison. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Miami Valley’s Alec Martin dribbles up the court as Madison’s Tyler Baumgartner provides the defense Thursday night during the Brian Cook Classic in Madison Township. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF