Trotwood-Madison handles Northridge for third straight regional crown

Rams advance to Division II state final four

Trotwood-Madison knows how to cut down championship nets. The Rams did it at the Division II regional tournament Saturday for the third straight year. Now they want to do the same in Columbus and call themselves state champions.

“Hopefully it’ll come out the way we want it with our goal of getting the ring,” Rams star Amari Davis said.

The Rams left no doubt of their local dominance Saturday with a 92-44 victory over Northridge. Davis scored 25 points, Carl Blanton 19, Carter Mims 11 and Keon’te Huguely 10. The Rams forced 31 turnovers and shot 50 percent.

Last year the Rams lost 60-51 to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the final. Two years ago the Rams lost to SVSM 62-60 in the semifinals.

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“We’re going back, but we’ve got to do a better job though,” Rams coach Rocky Rockhold said. “We gotta find a way to get over that hump. I like this group of guys. They’re focused on what we gotta do and this has been the goal all year. We just have to see it through.”

The Rams (26-2) jumped to a 27-14 lead after one quarter. The Polar Bears (20-7) were hanging around down 38-23 midway through the second quarter. But the Rams turned it on after the Bears missed a dunk. Blanton made a 3-pointer and the Rams were rolling toward a 28-5 run to close the half for a 66-28 lead.

“I told them that the first quarter was going to be pivotal,” said Bears coach Jeff Lisath. “If we could keep pace, handle the pressure, then we had a chance. We just weren’t able to do that.”

This is the Bears’ deepest tournament run under Lisath, who took them to the regional semifinals in 2015.

“I’m proud of our kids,” Lisath said. “All season long we battled and played extremely well at times. Even games when we didn’t play very well we were able to fight and stay in the battle. Today we weren’t able to do that.”

The Rams aren’t searching answers for how to prepare for the state tournament. Rockhold is planning to follow the same routine.

“We are who we are,” he said. “You don’t build a culture of one thing and then go somewhere and change your culture. We’re going to be who we are and we’re going to get after it. I know one thing’s for sure — those 14 guys are going to play hard. It’s my job to make adjustments in game and make it happen from there. But we’re not going to change who we are.”

Trotwood will face Akron Buchtel at 8 p.m. Thursday in the state semifinals at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center. Columbus South will meetThornville Sheridan or New Philadelphia in the other semi at 6:15 p.m. The state championship game is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, March 23.

Davis is excited to make it back to state.

“This year our chemistry is that we all push each other in practice,” Davis said. “Our focus is there mentally and physically. They’re like my family. Everybody on the team I love them like they’re my own brothers.”

But he knows this week’s preparation means everything to his team’s chances.

“Just working hard, not getting a big head, still playing our game, just having fun with each other,” he said. “It’s our last ride so we gotta go out with a bang.”

Blanton has thought about what it will take when the Rams get to Columbus.

“We’ve got to play harder,” he said, “get more rest up there and have some fun with it.”

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