PDT Sports Writer
ATHENS — Seeding can be deceiving.
In the case of Crooksville, the No. 8 Ceramics may have proven themselves as the most underrated team with the corresponding seed as they defeated No. 5 Minford 65-59 in Saturday’s Division III Southeast District Semifinal at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.
Behind 24 points from Caleb Jago and 20 from Mitchell Swingle, Crooksville needed just one second quarter lead change to control the rest of the game. The Falcons, playing in their first district tournament game since 2007, was only able to tie the game twice in the fourth but ultimately could never get over the hump.
“It was a high-scoring game and when we shoot (6-of-15) from the foul line and 3-of-15 from the 3-point line, we missed a lot of shots and at the end, Crooksville hit shots,” Minford coach Josh Shoemaker said.
The Falcons’ biggest lead came at four points twice in the opening frame. Senior Austin McBee buried a 3-pointer for a 15-11 lead and after a field goal from Jago on the next trip down, McBee was given a three-point play opportunity but missed the free throw.
The Ceramics took the lead for good in the second when Swingle made a basket in the paint. It was a part of a 10-3 run that Crooksville used to go from being down 22-21 to a 29-25 lead.
Coming out of the locker room, the game belong to Jago. He scored nine of the team’s final 22 points while Swingle added another six despite being in foul trouble for most of the second half.
“We let Jago get loose a few times and when we did, he would dump it down into Swingle and he had a good inside game tonight,” Shoemaker said.
While the duo were able to work the pick-and-roll to perfection, Minford continued to battle. The Falcons were able to tie the game on two occasions in the fourth, with the last coming on Kenton Gullion’s shot in the paint to make it a 49-49 game.
“I thought we did a good job of getting back in the game defensively with our full-court press but we would miss a free throw or miss a layup,” Shoemaker said. “It would turn into a bucket for them.”
McBee led all scorers with 25 points in his final high school game while Jared McCray finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds and Gullion chipped in with 13 points.
Along with McBee, Minford will graduate Evan Howard, Sean Berry, Eli Duduit and Zach Farrar.
“This senior class, from going 14-6 in the regular season last year to this year winning the SOC and getting back to The Convo was just great goals,” Shoemaker said. “We had three goals this year, one was to win the league, two was to get to The Convo and three was to play in the district final. We only fell short of one goal so our seniors deserve a lot of credit for getting us back on track and these underclassmen can understand how they were led by these seniors and get us back playing competitive basketball.”
The Ceramics will take on No. 2 Piketon next Friday in the district finals. The Redstreaks defeated No. 3 Valley, who shared the SOC II with the Falcons, 55-49 Saturday evening.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 29, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minford 18 11 12 18 — 59
Crooksville 15 16 12 22 — 65
Minford — McCray 6-4-16, McBee 11-0-25, Howard 0-1-1, Stapleton 1-0-2, Farrar 1-0-2, Gullion 6-1-13, Totals 25-6-59.
Crooksville — Jago 7-6-24, Ebert 4-1-10, Channel 1-0-2, James 2-3-7, Rollison 1-0-2, Swingle 9-2-20, Totals 24-12-65.
3-Point Goals — Minford 3 (McBee 3); Crooksville 5 (Jago 4, Ebert).
Records — Minford 19-5; Crooksville 12-12.