Shawnee holds on to beat Versailles, reaches regional final for first time in 46 years

Credit: Michael Cooper

Credit: Michael Cooper

VANDALIA — The Shawnee High School boys basketball team continues to survive and advance in the Division III postseason.

Braves senior Jamon Miller hit a free throw with 3.5 seconds remaining and Versailles’ halfcourt heave fell short as Shawnee beat the Tigers 58-55 in a D-III regional semifinal game on Wednesday night at the Vandalia Butler Student Activity Center.

“I’m proud of the guys,” said Braves coach Chris McGuire. “We went in and told the guys it wasn’t pretty, but it’s survive and advance. Even though we didn’t play our best, I thought the guys executed when we needed to. When we needed a play, we made a play. I’m really proud of them. We’ve earned another opportunity and that’s all we can ask for.”

ExploreCenterville rallies to reach D-I regional final

Shawnee advanced to a regional final game for the first time since 1975. They’ll play Cincinnati Taft with a state semifinal berth on the line at 4 p.m. Saturday at Vandalia Butler.

Sophomore Zion Crowe scored a game-high 18 points, junior Patrick Fultz had 13, Miller had 11 and sophomore R.J. Griffin added 10 as Shawnee improved to 17-4.

Shawnee led 15-10 after the first quarter and 24-20 at the half. Crowe scored six straight points in the first four minutes of the third quarter to give Shawnee a 10-point lead at 30-20.

“We thought we could take advantage of our inside play,” McGuire said. “It was one of our focuses going into the game, playing inside out. We thought we could take advantage of our size and athleticism to be able to score right around the rim. The guys did a good job executing what we wanted to do.”

The Braves extended their lead to 44-31 on a 3-pointer by Fultz early in the fourth quarter, but Versailles wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The Tigers, which finished their season 12-15, cut the lead to two points on two made free throws by Connor Stonebraker with 47.6 seconds remaining.

“I knew Versailles wasn’t going to give up,” McGuire said. “I kept telling the guys, they’re going to keep coming. To their credit and their coaching staff’s credit, they gave themselves a chance.”

ExploreCedarville in regional finals for first time

After Miller missed two free throws, Braves senior Drew Mitch kept the possession alive with a key offensive rebound. Fultz was fouled and made one of two to give the Braves a 56-53 lead with 32 seconds remaining.

A bucket by Stonebraker cut the lead to one point at 56-55, but Fultz made one of two free throws to give Shawnee another two-point advantage. After getting a stop, Miller was fouled again and made one of two free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining.

Shawnee struggled at the free throw line, shooting 14-for-28 for the game and 8-for-15 in the fourth quarter.

“All of these guys have made big free throws in games when we’ve needed them,” McGuire said. “It was just that mental aspect where you miss them and they start getting momentum off of it and it becomes even harder to make free throws. I continue to have confidence in these guys. I don’t know what we shot from the line, but it wasn’t good. These guys will knock them down the next time we need them.”

Shawnee will play Cincinnati Taft on Saturday with a trip to UD Arena for the D-III state semifinals next week. The Braves are seeking their first state berth in school history. The Senators are seeking their first trip to state since winning a title in 2011.

“We know they’re very good, very athletic and well-coached,” McGuire said. “We know we’ve got a tall task ahead of us, but we’re looking forward to it. We’ve got an opportunity to play for a state berth that Shawnee hasn’t had since 1975. Even though tonight didn’t feel the greatest as far as the way we played, we’ll respond and be ready to go for Saturday.”

Taft 62, Anna 57, OT: Trailing by 12 points early in the third quarter, the Rockets fought back to tie the score at 53 on two free throws by Isaiah Masteller, sending the game to overtime.

“All year, we’ve played relentless,” said Anna coach Nate Barhorst. “We were going to claw, fight back. I knew it was going to happen at some point. It was only a matter of time. I give so much credit to our boys.”

Anna took a 57-53 lead early in overtime, but the Senators would score nine straight points to advance to a regional final game on Saturday.

“We had opportunities, but that’s just the way the ball bounces sometimes,” Barhorst said.

Taft sophomore Rayvon Griffith scored a game-high 28 points and senior Yaaco Nelson added 18 as the Senators improved to 15-4 overall.

Anna senior Ben Kovacs and junior McKane Finkenbine each scored 17 for the Rockets, which finished their season 21-6.

About the Author