BOWLING GREEN – The Shawnee seniors delivered down the stretch.
Shawnee’s Justin Behnke, Johnny Caprella and Sheridan O’Neal all produced clutch plays in the final two minutes of the game to lift the Indians past Cleveland Central Catholic, 50-48, in the Division II regional semifinal at Bowling Green State University Thursday night.
With the win, Shawnee advances to the regional final against Columbus South in Bowling Green at 2 p.m. Saturday. CCC ends its year with a 16-10 mark.
“Obviously we have some talented sophomores and the lone junior John Barker we have is getting some minutes right now but we have done what we have done this season in part because of our seniors,” Triplett said. “They are as unselfish a group of guys I have been around. They could go for those individual accolades but they could care less. They compete and find ways to win and that is how it has been about all year long.”
With 1:36 left in the game, the score was knotted at 41-41 following a George Mangas steal and basket, Shawnee would produce a key steal and clutch free throws from Behnke as well as a big bucket from Caprella and two important free throws from O’Neal to help seal the deal for the Indians. Behnke hit 5 of 6 from the charity stripe in the final two minutes.
Not to be overlooked was the solid defensive effort from Shawnee that was spearheaded by sophomore Tyson Elwer. Battling some big bruisers inside, Elwer produced seven blocked shots, 11 rebounds and 9 points.
Elwer admitted that the Ironmen’s front line were intimidating but the sophomore said he has scrimmaged similar competition in the preseason and he added you have to stand in there and battle.
“They were crashing on every single rebound and they were physical,” Elwer said. “When they went up for shots I try to get back as quick as I can to help out.”
The Indians came out with a diamond and one defense to try and contain CCC’s sharpshooters and the move paid off as the majority of the Ironmen points came inside. It also put Elwer as the guardian of the bucket.
“When you can put Tyson around the rim they are going to have to crash in there at some point and he just cleans things up and that allows us to do some different things defensively and then the other guys have to buy into their roles and crash the glass as well,” Triplett said. “We gave up a lot of offensive rebounds but we knew that was their strength but just had to find a way to get stops.”
CCC head coach Jordan Duke said it came down to the Ironmen not converting their buckets in the paint. For the game, CCC was 16 of 57 for 38 percent and 3 of 16 from behind the 3-point arc for 18.8 percent.
“That is what the game came down to,” Duke said. “We had 19 offensive rebounds and they had seven so that means we missed a lot of shots. The game is very simple. You have to make layups, you have to make free throws and you have to rebound the basketball and for us we didn’t make free throws and we didn’t make layups down the stretch.”
Ironman big man Taryl Davis, who finished with 12 rebounds and a team-leading 11 points, echoed his coaches sentiment about not making layups.
“He is a big body (Elwer) and he blocked a lot of shots but I missed a lot of shots and came up short.”
Sophomore George Mangas, who was instrumental in Shawnee’s offensive output, finished with a game-high 17 points.
With another thrilling win under their belt, Triplett said this team thrives under pressure and said this is the type of game that makes high school basketball. He added that during practice he likes to put his players in uncomfortable situations to prepare for tight games like this one.
“Where else would you rather be right now,” Triplett said. “This crowd was absolutely unbelievable. We try to stay basic and as fundamental and that way we have seen every situation possible.”
Columbus South 61, Norwalk 54
Columbus South held off Norwalk 61-54 to advance to the Division II regional final at 2 p.m. Saturday
Columbus South’s Trevell Adams finished with 22 points and teammate Ta’Quan Simington added 15 points. Marcus Johnson chipped in 11 points.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.