By Tony Arnold
KETTERING – Jackson Center showed plenty of ‘regional resolve’ as the Tigers rallied in remarkable and convincing fashion to defeat Southeastern 39-32 in the boys Division 4 Regional semifinal Tuesday night at Trent Arena in Kettering.
The Tigers lowered the boom on the Trojans down the stretch. Plenty of Tiger tenacity on defense and crisp, fast-paced play on offense in the second half proved to be the difference-maker.
With the victory Jackson improves to 23-4 and returns to the regional final Friday night with a trip to Columbus on the line. Southeastern finishes the year at 23-4.
A storybook finish paced the Tigers but the script once again included another swarming defensive attack by Jackson Center. The Tigers, who have held most of their opponents well below their offensive average all season long, produced another dandy on defense. Overall, several Tigers had solid efforts defensively.
“When we play we try to really buckle down defensively and make it tough for teams to get buckets,” said JC coach Scott Elchert. “We have four keys to every game and the first one is defense.”
Of particular significance was the defensive effort by senior standout Drew Sosby. The leading scorer for the Tigers shut down the leading scorer for the Trojans. Jake Bertemes poured in 33 points in last week’s district final, but Sosby & Company kept him bottled up all night, limiting him to just four points.
“Here’s what I’m going to say about Drew. We’ve been blessed with a lot of great players over the years and one thing that we try to make sure our best players pride themselves on is not only being good offensively but being better defensively. I think that speaks volumes about Drew Sosby,” said Elchert.
Southeastern controlled the tempo early, doubling up the Tigers 12-6 after a quarter of play. A pair of back-to-back three-pointers by Ethan Zorn had the Tigers within three (18-15) but the Trojans enjoyed a 23-18 lead heading into the locker rooms.
“The thing we talked about during the timeout in the first half and in the locker room at halftime is we are only five down. Ethan sat out a lot of the first half with foul trouble and we missed a lot of stuff inside. We felt very good with where we were at the half,” said Elchert.
Things started looking dangerous for Jackson Center in the second half as Southeastern constructed a 30-21 lead a little over midway through the third following a bucket by Andrew Lyons. But the Tigers went on a 9-0 run to close out the third quarter. The game-changing spurt was ignited by Sosby who scored the first six points, including a triple.
“I felt like at that stage in the game, we needed to put the ball in Drew Sosby’s hands and let him do something with it and he did,” explained Elchert.
Drew’s cousin Bryce Sosby capped off the run by knocking down a rainbow three-pointer that knotted things up at 30 apiece.
The Trojans briefly regained the lead (32-30) early in the fourth quarter. However, Jackson Center put on quite a clinic the rest of the way. The Tigers took the fight to the Trojans who couldn’t find a way to avoid repeated attacks from Jackson. The Tigers put the clamps down defensively, limiting Southeastern to just two points in the fourth quarter, both free throws.
Jackson Center closed out the night on another 9-0 run. The game-sealing surge included seven points from Tiger big man Brady Wildermuth.
Wildermuth led the Tigers with 15 points while Drew Sosby scored 14. Southeastern failed to place a single player in double figures.
“It’s great at this stage of the game. It’s the time of the year when you need to win to see tomorrow. We are obviously happy to be back but know we have to get ready for a great team. We will have our work cut out for us on Friday,” said Elchert.
Jackson Center (39) — D. Sosby 14, Zorn 7, B. Sosby 3, Wildermuth 15.
Southeastern (32) — Toops 2, Bertemes 4, Spears 7, King 7, Lyons 9, South 3.
Score by quarters:
Three-pointers: Jackson 6 (D. Sosby 2, Zorn 2, B. Sosby, Wildermuth); Southeastern (Spears, King, Lyons).
Records: Both teams 23-4.
JC’s next game: Friday, regional championship, 7:30 at Trent Arena vs. Lima Perry-Yellow Springs winner.