PIQUA — The records and seeds made it look like Mississinawa Valley may be able to challenge Jackson Center in a Division IV sectional quarterfinal on Friday at Piqua’s Garbry Gymnasium.
The Blackhawks, though, became the latest team to endure a defensive clinic by Jackson Center.
Jackson Center’s stifling defense held Mississinawa Valley to seven or less points in every quarter of a 47-21 win. It’s the seventh time this season the No. 4 seed Tigers (14-9) have held an opponent to 34 points or less.
Jackson Center advances to face either Triad or Fairlawn in a second-round game next Tuesday at Piqua. The Jets and Triad played in the third sectional quarterfinal on Friday, which was not completed before press time.
Mississinawa Valley senior guard Ethan Bowman was one of the top D-IV players in the Dayton area in regular season, as he averaged about 18 points per game. He managed eight points against the Tigers, though, and shot 3 for 10 from the field.
“Ethan’s a team player and tries to get everybody else involved when sometimes he should probably take it more on his own,” Mississinawa Valley coach Tim Barga said. “He tried to get others involved, and we just couldn’t hit the shots …They were on him, though, there’s no doubt. I can’t say that they were on him more than anybody else. They were on everybody.”
Jackson Center senior guard Bryce Sosby guarded Bowman throughout the game, and coach Scott Elchert was pleased with the performance.
“Bryce Sosby just did one hellacious job on him,” Elchert said. “… Our kids have bought in to what they have to do to put ourselves in a position to be successful. We don’t feel like, no disrespect to our kids, but we don’t feel like we’re the most athletic group on the floor or the quickest guys. They’re about winning, so they appreciate the fact that we’re going to put them in a position to win one game to the next.”
The Tigers did well on the offensive end too. They shot 18 for 36 (50 percent) from the field, including 8 for 15 from 3-point range.
“We made a bunch of extra passes to find the open guy,” Elchert said. “A couple of times a guy was open, but we bought into the fact that we have to have good movement in our offense and that we’re always looking for the next open guy, so even though they were open, they’d think the other guy is even a little bit more open.”
Junior guard Trent Platfoot led Jackson Center with 17 points while Sosby scored 11.
“The neat thing about Trent is, as a freshman, the only thing he could do was shoot the 3 for us,” Elchert said. “Now, he’s developed his game where he can score off the dribble, he can stop and pop. I still believe that his upswing is that much better. He’s just started to understand all the different tools he has from the offensive standpoint.”
Mississinawa Valley (12-10) shot 7 for 31 (22.6 percent) from the field and had 11 turnovers, while Jackson Center had eight. The Tigers outrebounded the No. 7 seed Blackhawks 29-17.
The tone was set early. Christopher Elchert hit two 3-pointers and Calvin Winner made a basket to give Jackson Center an 8-2 lead. The Tigers led 13-6 at the end of the first and extended their lead in the second.
Bowman hit a 3 from the right wing to pull Mississinawa Valley within 13-9 with 7:19 left in the second, but Sosby added two 3s and Trent Platfoot made a 3 over the next four minutes to put the Tigers up 19-9. Winner hit a two before the final buzzer to give the Tigers a 24-9 halftime lead.
“I think the first thing is we let them build confidence on the offensive end,” Barga said. “Whenever you build confidence on the offensive end, that gives you that extra step on the defensive end. We started out by letting them stand there and shoot, and that built their confidence and really set the tone for the whole night. We were a half a step behind on everything.”
Sosby hit a basket to cap off a 5-0 run for the Tigers to start the third. The deficit didn’t get under 18 points after that. Jackson Center, which has won its last three games, finished the third with a 14-7 scoring advantage and won the fourth 9-5.
Jackson Center advanced to a district final each of the last three seasons, including a state run in 2016. Elchert says the staff talked with the team prior to Friday’s game about the program’s successful tournament history.
“We got better towards the end of January and had a great February,” Elchert said. “I do feel like this is a team that is capable of making a run, because I do believe this time of the year, you do have to be able to defend because teams know each other real well.
“… We talk about (our tradition). This time of year, and I don’t mean for this to be an egotistical statement, but this time of year, we tell the guys that putting on that uniform better mean something to them because this is what we’ve been building for all season.”
Jackson Center’s sectional semifinal against Fairlawn or Triad will tip off at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.