The needle finally reached empty on Shawnee’s fuel gauge.
The Indians, who found themselves down 11 going in the third quarter against Kenton in the opening round of the Division II Northwest sectional, clawed their way back into the game and tied the game at in the fourth quarter only to see the Wildcats outscore Shawnee 12-2 in the last two minutes to secure the 71-61 victory Tuesday night.
Kenton (14-9) advances to play Upper Sandusky, the No. 2 seed, Friday night at 6:15 p.m. Shawnee ends its year with a 12-11 mark.
“Their press gave us some problems in the second half… but I am proud how the guys handled adversity tonight,” Kenton head coach Matt McCullough said. “We fought through some situations when we got down there but they didn’t give up and they stayed together, and they got some defensive stop when it counted..”
Shawnee head coach Mark Triplett said he thought his team was good energy-wise but when the Indians fouled Kenton down the stretch it allowed the Wildcats to regroup and regain their composure.
“We really didn’t shoot well and outside of Sean (McDonald) we didn’t make any outside shots,” Triplett said. “They had good looks. It wasn’t like we forced shots or shot contested 3-pointers. I thought on the other hand they did make some shots.”
Shawnee’s Sean McDonald, who pumped in a game-high 28 points was instrumental on the offensive end in keeping the Indians close and spearheading the comeback in the second half.
But it was the Indians’ full court press that was the primary reason Shawnee clawed its way back from the second half double-digit deficit.
Going into the second half, Kenton owned a 33-22 lead and had done so on the strength of the inside shooting of Thomas Phillips and the outside shooting of Brady Donnelly.
At the onset of the second half, the Indians instituted the full court press and it quickly produced results as Shawnee would outscore the Wildcats 9-2 to slice the lead to six, 35-31, with 5:07 left in the third quarter.
Shawnee kept up its intense pressure for the remainder of the third quarter and when Sheridan scored on a layup with 2:05 left, the Indians trailed by just one, 41-40. However, it was evident the energy expended to cut the lead began to become evident when the Wildcats went on a quick 6-2 run to up the lead, 47-42, going into the final period
Shawnee rallied for a quick 7-2 run to open the fourth quarter to knot the score 49-49 with 5:25 left in the game and for the next three minutes the two teams exchanged baskets and the score would be tied three times. With a little less than three minutes left, the score was tied at 59.
Nine unanswered points by Kenton gave the Wildcats some breathing room to go up 68-59 with 57.8 and Bath could not muster the energy for another run.
“In the second half we got our energy up and we made some baskets off transition and off steals and I thought the pace is where we wanted it to be but ultimately we didn’t shoot well and I thought the big boy, Phillips, did a great job of contesting shots and some good looks ended up giving us nothing,” Triplett said.
Kenton’s Hunter Phillips led the Wildcats in scoring with 22 points followed by Donnelly, who made six clutch free throws and a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, with a personal best 20 points. Coming into the game he was averaging four points. Thomas Phillips finished with 17 points.
“We definitely go inside out with our offense,” McCullough said. “We work the ball through Thomas and go from there. I am very proud of Brady Donnelly tonight. He has spent a lot of time and effort in the gym and he got a career high tonight.”
Defiance 41, Bath 40
Throughout the season, Bath has had trouble scoring points and it came back to haunt the Wildcats in their 41-40 loss to Defiance in the Division II Northwest sectional opening round Tuesday night.
The hard- luck shooting Wildcats toughest miss came in the final seconds of the game with Defiance leading 41-40 with 6.5 seconds left.
With the ball, Bath’s Chad Frey went up for a short jumper but the ball hit the front of the rim and the buzzer sounding signaling the end of the game and the Wildcats’ season.
Defiance (12-10) advances to a game against Wapakoneta Friday at 8 p.m. Bath ends its year at 4-19.
Defiance head coach Kirk Lehman said a switch from man-to-man to zone helped the Bulldogs erase an early deficit and also jump start their offense.
“We had to go zone and hope for the best,” Lehman said. “Luckily we rebounded pretty well out of the zone. Our thought our press helped in the second half. What a gutty effort by our guys.”
Bath head coach Shawn Allen said unforced turnovers and not being able to convert free throws down the stretch were two big reasons Bath struggled down the stretch. For the game, Bath was 2-of-10 from the free throw line.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Allen said. “Our practices have been good all year. They didn’t show any signs of not being interested and willing to work hard. But this is certainly a tough one to swallow.”
Early in the game it was all Bath and even though they really weren’t shooting the lights out, opened up a 24-7 lead with 6:50 left in the first half.
But the Bulldogs, who were also having trouble scoring, outscored Bath, 19-1, for the remainder of the first half to close the gap to 26-18.
Bath’s inconsistent shooting continued into the second half and Defiance outscored the Wildcats 9-3 in the first four minutes to close the gap to 29-27 with two minutes left in the third period. Going into the final period, Bath owned a 31-27 lead.
Bath continued to stay one bucket ahead of Defiance in the fourth quarter and with 4:16 left in the game, the Wildcats held a slim 36-31 lead. But them Mike Menendez made his presence known.
The Bulldog senior guard, who had four points for the game, buried a 3-pointer to cut the lead to two. Bath countered with a bucket from Harrison Gough, but on Defiance’s next possession, Menendez popped another trey to cut the lead to one, 38-37 with 2:12 left in the game.
Menendez then gave Defiance the lead when he hit is seventh point of the quarter, but Ryan Gossard, with 38 seconds left, regained the lead for Bath with a basket, 40-39, with 38 seconds left in the game.
Defiance took the lead back when Josef Kanough scored a bucket with 15.1 seconds left to give Defiance the 41-40 lead.
“Menendez is running on fumes,” Lehman said. “We ask so much from that guy. Those last two shots that went in he put a little extra in those legs of his.”
Menendez finished the game with a team-high 14 points and Kanough added 12 points.
For Bath, Frey pumped in 16 points and Gossard chipped in 11.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter @JoseNogueras1.