BOWLING GREEN — In its last two postseason games, Shawnee found ways to overcome deficits to produce fantastic finishes for wins. But against Columbus South, the Indians failed to manufacture that magical comeback and fell 64-47 in the Division II regional final Saturday at the Stroh Center.
With the loss, Shawnee ends its season with a 24-3 mark. Columbus South (27-1) advances to the state tournament and will play at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Shawnee head coach Mark Triplett said prior to the game the keys were rebounding, keeping the Bulldogs in front of them and knocking down shots and he said the Indians failed to do any of them.
“They really hurt us on the offensive glass all night long and we really struggled to box out especially on their wings who flew in and they were relentless getting in there,” Triplett said. “In that transition game we couldn’t get in front of them and they were getting to the rim all night long.”
Triplett added that early in the game he thought the Indians were getting good looks but the shots were not falling. In the first half, Shawnee was 9 of 27 from the floor and 1 of 11 from behind the 3-point arc. For the game, Shawnee was 18 of 44.
Columbus South’s quick hands on defense and second chance baskets allowed the Bulldogs to stave off any Indian comeback. South produced 27 points off 17 Indian turnovers and recorded 16 offensive rebounds for 16 second chance points.
Bulldog head coach Ramon Spears said Columbus South played its game.
“With the turnaround we just had to play our type of game,” Spears said. “We just worked on what we do best and try to slow the tempo and stay in front of them. We took pride in our defense today.”
Four Bulldogs scored in double digits with Trevell Adams leading the way with 15 points followed by Ta’Quan Simington with 13 and Treohn Watkins with 12. Samual Barton added 10.
“They were real fast in the perimeter and we just got outrebounded the whole game,” Shawnee senior Sheridan O’Neal said. “I think if we came back more physical we would come back on top.”
Shawnee senior Johnny Caprella, who battled an ankle injury for most of the game, agreed with his senior teammate.
“I’ve been battling that ankle all year and re-aggravated it tonight,” Caprella said. “The game was a different pace tonight and we tried to keep up but came up a little short but if we played 10 times I would take us seven times out of 10.”
Offensively, South spread the floor and relied on individual one-on-one play to manufacture points as well as neutralizing Tyson Elwer inside who was often rushing back to help on defense but the fleet-footed Bulldogs were just a step too quick most of the times.
After the first period, Columbus South led 15-7 and then opened up a 35-24 lead at halftime. The Indians appeared poised to snatch the momentum away in the third quarter when the Indians cut the lead to 39-31 with 5:35 left in the game, but the run was short-lived as the Bulldogs defense clamped down and ended the third period with a 47-36 lead.
“Our kids fought like heck and got themselves in position in that third quarter to cut the lead down but we had some turnovers that led to some easy buckets for them,” Triplett said. “It wasn’t our night and that is the way it goes in this game sometimes.
In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs spread the floor out even more and ate up clock while working for high percentage buckets.
Shawnee’s George Mangas, who finished with 19 points, scored 13 of the Indians’ 24 points in the first half and was key in keeping the Indians in the game in the first two stanzas. No other Indian failed to crack the double-digit barrier in scoring.
For O’Neal and Caprella, along with Tyler Stoll and Logan Maxwell, the season and their high school careers come to an end and while not where they wanted to finish, they were thankful for all the support they received throughout the year.
“We had a great season and there is nothing that compares to the people we have behind us and it is just crazy for them to come out and show up,” Caprella said. “Shawnee hasn’t been like this in 19 years.”
For O’Neal he will cherish the memories that were forged not only in this season but in the last four years.
“It was great to see them all line up on the streets and get a fire escort as we were leaving,” O’Neal said. “I haven’t seen them do this in any other sport in a season for a real long time.”
Triplett said it was a great season and it will be tough to say good-bye to the seniors.
“It is hard to do without getting emotional,” Triplett said. “I love our seniors. They have been our guys all year and they got us to this point. It has been their team not our team. The seniors have put us in this position. We talked about that during the season and we have to take a step forward and can we raise the bar in our program and our seniors demanded that from our younger players in the gym and find a way to get 1 percent better and that is a testament to our seniors.
“You can never take the regional finals from these guys and I am sad this group is done collectively together but I told these guys in the locker room that we love them to death and we as coaches will be there for the rest of their lives and they will reflect on this 10 or 20 years from now, and it will be nothing but positives.”