Trotwood-Madison had a great shot at winning an elusive boys state basketball championship. There was just one hiccup: The best part of its impressive game was missing when the Rams needed it most.
“We are built on being able to score and we struggled to do that,” admitted Trotwood coach Rocky Rockhold following a crushing 60-51 loss to nemesis Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in Saturday’s Division II high school state championship.
“They were the right shots at the right time by the right guys and they just didn’t go in.”
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It was the second straight season the program that LeBron James elevated to national status had knocked the Rams out. Still its favorite son, James gave the Irish an extended shoutout on Twitter afterward.
Trotwood also fell to Akron SVSM in last year’s D-II state semifinals. In all, the Irish have beaten the Rams in their last three meetings, including twice this season.
“It’s tough,” said Trotwood senior Myles Belyeu, who ended his outstanding Rams career by scoring a game-high 20 points. “Losing back to back to the same team in a similar way, it’s hard.”
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Other than Trotwood’s stinging setback, it was a dominant showing by the other division reps who emerged from the Cincinnati and Kettering regionals. Moeller (D-I), Cincinnati Deer Park (D-III) and Marion Local (D-IV) all won their respective divisional state titles and Trotwood was a runner-up. All the championship games were held at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.
Trotwood (26-4) seemed to have everything in place to complete a rare state championship double. The Rams already had won a state football title last December. Its transition game appeared unstoppable and accounted for much of a 90-point average and 19-game win streak. The Rams had hit triple digits nine times in the regular season, including a season-high 121.
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Besides, there was an 88-42 dismantling of overmatched Byesville Meadowbrook in Friday’s state semi. A running second-half clock was used for the first time in Ohio final four history.
In their fourth final four and second state title game, the Rams were on a mission to match school’s football title run. Instead, they met their match in the Irish, again.
“We understand their style of play,” veteran Akron SVSM coach Dru Joyce said. “They don’t change. We had to handle that pressure, get back on defense and make them play in the half court and slow them down a little bit.”
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The Irish (21-8) did just that, holding the Rams to a season-low point total before a crowd of 9,096. It was the second straight state championship for Akron SVSM and a record eighth overall. That broke a tie with Middletown for most all-time state titles.
Amari Davis, the Rams’ outstanding junior and the other half of the high-scoring backcourt, added 19 points. But the rest of the Rams combined for just 12 points.
“You’re not going to win a lot of championships if you’re relying on two guys,” Rockhold said. “You always need that third guy who makes a difference and we didn’t get that.”
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Lunden McDay had 19 points to lead the Irish. Scott Walter, a senior point guard who flawlessly handled the Rams’ defensive pressure, added 17 points.
Both teams made 21 field goals and three 3-pointers, but the Irish converted 15 of 17 free throws to 6 of 9 for the Rams. Just as significant, Trotwood was outrebounded 35-20.
“It stings a lot,” Rockhold said. “We didn’t play our best and we didn’t do things we typically do and it really bit us.”
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Belyeu and Walter are the only key seniors each team will lose to graduation. It’s not set yet, but these state powers likely will secure a regular-season series for at least the next two years. With so many returners for both teams, a third straight state final four matchup next season seems inevitable.
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“It hurts,” Davis said. “We’ll use this as fuel for next season and hopefully we’ll get back to where we’re at now.”