Flyin’ to the Hoop: Wayne falls to Pickerington North

Wayne’s Lawrent Rice shoots over Pickerington North’s Dior Conners during the first half of Saturday’s Flyin’ To The Hoop game at Trent Arena. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

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Wayne’s Lawrent Rice shoots over Pickerington North’s Dior Conners during the first half of Saturday’s Flyin’ To The Hoop game at Trent Arena. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

KETTERING – Wayne played another strong Division I team Saturday and lost. But as star guard Lawrent Rice said: “We’re in the same place we were last year. I think we can still win out and show people that we’re a state-contending team.”

The Warriors’ five losses this year stack up similarly to last year’s four regular-season losses. On Saturday at Premier Health Flyin’ To The Hoop, Wayne lost 52-49 against Pickerington North, which has lost only twice against its own tough schedule.

Wayne’s other four losses are to teams ranked in the state’s Division I top 10 – No. 1 Centerville, No. 4 Fairmont, No. 5 Cincinnati Elder, No. 10 Fairfield.

“All of those games have been really, really close,” said Wayne coach Nate Martindale, whose team lost to Cincinnati St. Xavier in a district final last year. “I tell our kids we’re right there, but we’ve got to find a way to finish those. But at the same time we know we can compete with anybody. And come tournament time that’s when we want to be playing our best basketball.”

The finish hurt the Warriors (7-5) Saturday. Rice made two free throws with 1:43 left to cut North’s lead to 48-46. With 31 seconds left, Wayne sent Jerry Saunders (15 points) the foul line. Wayne got what it wanted when Saunders missed the front end of the one-and-one.

But the Warriors didn’t get the rebound. Corey Hudson (16 points) muscled in for the rebound and scored for a 50-46 lead and the game’s decisive play. Wayne’s 6-foot-7 Aamil Wagner and his wide frame that has made him an offensive line recruit to Notre Dame was waiting to check into the game.

“I take full responsibility for that,” Martindale said. “We were trying to get Aamil in the game. I couldn’t get him in fast enough, and that’s one you would love to have back as a coach.”

During the third quarter it appeared Wayne would get that elusive win over a top-tier Division I team. North led 21-20 at the half, but Rice scored eight points in a hurry to push Wayne to a 33-25 lead with 3:16 left. But North began to keep the ball away from Rice and rallied to trail 36-35 entering the fourth quarter.

“He’s going to make the right basketball play nine out of 10 times,” Martindale said of Rice. “Credit Pick North’s defense. It’s hard every single possession to go make a play. We’ve got to find more creative ways and be better at getting him off the ball some. We’re going to work on that.”

Rice had 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and one turnover while playing the entire game. Wagner had 10 points and eight rebounds.

“They definitely tried to take me away more, which forces my team to put the ball in other people’s hands that aren’t comfortable in that position,” Rice said. “They did a good job with that.”

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