ST. MARYS — For the second time this year, Spencerville’s Dakota Prichard broke Delphos Jefferson’s heart.
In the regular season, the Bearcat senior standout hit a 3-point buzzer beater to down the Wildcats. And while it was not a game-ending shot that sent Jefferson packing, 63-57, it was his clutch 3-pointer with 38 seconds left that helped propel the Bearcats to victory and the Division III sectional title Saturday.
With the win, Spencerville advances to the district semifinals to face Marion Local at Lima Senior at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.
“I think they are really good,” Spencerville head coach Kevin Sensabaugh said about the close games these two teams have played. “That was two good basketball teams beating up on each other. They made some tough shots and made some tough plays.”
“It was a tough one,” Jefferson head coach Jordan Jettinghoff said. “Quite frankly, there was a couple of bounces that could have went our way but went theirs and that is what it came down to because we played 32 minutes of pretty dang good basketball.”
Going into the final two minutes of the game, Jefferson led, 51-50 after Jace Stockwell hit a layup. But Spencerville answered with back-to-back buckets from Bailey Croft and Griffin Croft to up the lead to four with 1:125 remaining in the contest.
Jefferson’s Tyler Bratton came up big when he popped one from 3-point land to tie the game, 54-54 at the 1:14 mark.
Prichard, who had not hit a bucket since the second quarter, countered with a 3-pointer of his own with 32.7 seconds left to elevate the Bearcats to the 57-54 lead. On the ensuing possession, Jefferson’s attempt to respond failed on a missed 3-point attempt and Spencerville rebounded, forcing the Wildcats to foul.
Prichard knocked down two free throws with 15.7 seconds left to open up a five-point lead and Jefferson never overcame the late deficit. In the final 10 seconds, Spencerville’s Gary Schrolucke hit all four of his free-throw attempts as well to help ice the win.
Schrolucke’s clutch free throws down the stretch capped off a big second half. Schroluke’s precision perimeter shooting was a major factor in the Bearcats’ win. After being held scoreless in the first half and going 0-for-3 from treyland, the sharp shooting guard hit three 3-pointers in the third period when Prichard was held scoreless in that quarter.
“Prichard hit a really good three late in the game when it was tied 54-54 and big time players make big time plays,” Jettinghoff said.
Providing the inside points for Spencerville was the Croft duo. The two combined for 24 points and 16 rebounds. Griffin Croft recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds including five offensive boards. Bailey Croft, who had four points the last time the two teams met, finished with 14 points.
“I didn’t think Bailey played very well the last time and I think he knew that he didn’t play well the last time so it was important for him to better,” Sensabaugh said. “He got a lot of offensive rebounds, he was active defensively and obviously got some scoring that helped us tremendously. I’ll tell you Gary Schrolucke stepped up in a huge way.”
Jefferson standout Jace Stockwell, coming off a 29-point performance against Lima Central Catholic on Wednesday, did all he could to not end his high school basketball career as he pumped in 27 points. Teammate Alex Rode had a big afternoon with 17 points and six rebounds.
“I have a lot of respect for that kid (Stockwell),” Sensabaugh said. “I have a lot of respect for that team. We had to earn it and we did. It wasn’t easy and our guys battled through the whole night.”
Even though he was disappointed with the loss, Jettinghoff said he was proud of the way his team grew this year.
“We started our season 1-6 and to come back and go 12-12 shows a lot of guts and determination,” Jettinghoff said.
Marion Local 64,
Allen East 46
During the postseason, an upper seed usually wants to jump out to an early lead to not give the lower seed any confidence.
Marion Local, seeded No. 3, did just that by opening its Division III sectional final with a 8-0 run against Allen East, seeded No. 8, en route to a convincing 64-46 win Saturday.
With the win, Marion Local takes on Spencerville in the district semifinals at Lima Senior at 6:15 p.m. Thursday. Allen East ends its year 10-13.
“I thought that was one of the keys to the game was putting doubts in their minds early and that is important,” Marion Local head coach Kurt Goettenmoeller said. “We did what we had to do tonight.”
With the Flyers’ big boys in the middle, Marion Local took advantage of its size and strength to garner the big lead which by halftime was 36-14.
Flyer post player Tyler Mescher, coming in at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, pumped in 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Mescher did all of his damage inside the paint and was a efficient 12 of 18 from the floor. Teammate Tyler Prenger finished with 12 points.
“We knew they would be aggressive and they were good defensively,” Allen East head coach Brad Clum said. “We only have one real ball handler right now and they took us out of what we wanted to do early. They are a good team and we couldn’t contend with their size, especially on the offensive boards and that is something we needed to do.”
The Flyers’ defense also played a big role in the victory. Marion Local’s clamp down defense held Caleb Smelser and Spencer Miller to a combined five points in the first two periods. Miller would finish with 13 and Smelcer added 11 points.
“Smelcer and Miller are pretty scary kids and I thought we did a good job for the most part of other defenders, besides those guys defending them, and helping out,” Goettenmoeller said.
The loss ends a roller coaster season for Allen East.
“We ran into some adversity throughout the year and had to deal with that and we struggled all year inside and didn’t have a lot of experience at the post position. Spencer Miller had an outstanding year and career for us so a lot of positives from that standpoint. Caleb Smelser had an outstanding career averaging 16 points for us. But we are always disappointed if it ends this year and you are not state champions.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter @JoseNogueras1.