Wayne, so spectacular in a district final last weekend, didn’t have close to its “A” game in the follow-up regional semifinal. That’s what made a 56-49 defeat of Cincinnati Princeton on Wednesday night extra special.
“You’ve just got to find a way to win,” said Warriors senior guard Deshon Parker. “That’s what I like about our team, we refuse to lose. That’s the main thing.”
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Springfield couldn’t match that effort and fell 65-44 to Moeller in the doubleheader opener. That pits Wayne (25-1) against Moeller (24-3) in the boys high school basketball Division I regional championship back at Xavier University’s Cintas Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The winner qualifies for next week’s season-ending state final four in Columbus.
Moeller was the D-I state runner-up last season and all three of its losses were to out-of-state powers. Moeller finished No. 2 in the final D-I state poll and Wayne tied for No. 3. Annually among the state’s best programs, they haven’t played each other in more than a decade.
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Princeton (23-4), guided by former Colonel White and Bowling Green State University standout Steve Wright, faced a huge challenge in addition to Wayne’s formidable lineup. Missing from the Vikings’ lineup was All-Ohio senior and Syracuse recruit Darius Bazley, who sat out the second of a two-game suspension for leaving the court in a sectional final.
Still, Wayne couldn’t pull away like it did against another Greater Miami Conference foe Oak Hills in the district final. Darius Quisenberry led Wayne, hitting 10 of 15 shots for a game-high 24 points and three steals. Ronnie Hampton added 12 points and three steals and Parker was good for 10 points. L’Christian “Blue” Smith had eight points and nine rebounds for the Warriors.
Darweshi Hunter led Princeton with 23 points.
Moeller 65, Springfield 44: Springfield needed to be at its high-end best to have any chance against mighty Moeller. There’s always next season.
The defeat closed outstanding four-year runs by Springfield seniors Leonard Taylor and Michael Wallace. They played on three district title teams and in D-I regionals the past two seasons.
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“It’s been great and I was glad I was able to be a part of it,” said Taylor, a 6-foot-6 center who signed with Cincinnati to play football. “I’m just glad I was a Wildcat.”
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Moeller already had beaten host Springfield 56-39 in the regular season and it was more of the same in this Sweet 16 matchup. Wright State signee and Moeller senior Jeremiah Davenport hit 9 of 13 shots for a game-high 25 points to go with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
And when Davenport wasn’t producing, 6-10 senior center Jaxson Hayes (Texas) stepped up with 10 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
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Jajuan Rodgers hit 6 of 9 shots to lead Springfield with 15 points. RaHeim Moss added 11 points and five rebounds.
The Wildcats (21-5) were a combined 82-25 over the last four seasons and won 20 games three times. There should be more of the same in coming seasons. Springfield returns nine players who suited up against Moeller.
“Moeller, those are guys we’ve been clashing with the last couple years,” Wildcats coach Isaiah Carson said. “We want our program to be up there on that level. We’re going to remember this feeling and come back strong next year. We’ll be back.”