PIQUA — Camdyn Reese knew Fort Loramie’s run was coming.
“We were trying to keep their runs a little less (long),” Reese said. “Once they started getting going, we just had to match, find a way to get a bucket.”
Reese found a way to get a bucket at the biggest point on Friday.
After Fort Loramie had taken a lead with 15 seconds left, Reese took a pass at the top of the key, drove down the lane, spun and made a floater with about three seconds left to give Jackson Center a 42-41 win in a Division IV district semifinal at Piqua’s Garbry Gymnasium.
“I knew that I just had to go to the rim,” Reese, a junior, said. “There had to be a lane, no matter what was in front of me. I just had to find that lane, get to the rim and finish.”
The Tigers (19-6) advance to a Div. IV district final for the fourth consecutive season. They’ll play Springfield Catholic Central (23-2) on Tuesday in Dayton.
Fort Loramie trailed by 11 points heading into the fourth quarter but fought back.
Junior guard Caleb Maurer drove inside and hit a short shot with about 15 seconds left to give the Redskins a 41-40 lead.
Jackson Center, which struggled holding on to the ball in the fourth quarter against a full-court press, got the ball to Kellen Reichert, who ran it up the sideline.
Reichert dribbled along the left wing and threw to Reese, who was being guarded by Maurer. He drove inside and spun, and Maurer fell to the ground. Fort Loramie’s Ty Ruhenkamp rushed inside to try to provide help, but Reese coolly made the short shot.
“Our kids did gut it out, and to Camdyn’s credit, he made a play, after we could have just folded ship,” Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert said. “But to his credit and our kids’ credit, they know how we handle those situations. That’s why there was no timeout taken there. …That was just a player making a play in a big game.”
Reese, who finished with 14 points, also hit 4-of-4 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter.
“The last two years, he struggled at the free-throw line,” Elchert said. “That boy deserves a lot of credit, because he put in a lot of extra time and has become a very good free-throw shooter for us.”
The Tigers made 15-of-19 free-throw attempts on the night while Fort Loramie made 6-of-13.
The Redskins, which beat Jackson Center 39-36 and 45-21 in Shelby County Athletic League games in regular season, finish 13-11 overall. They’ll lose two seniors to graduation in Ruhenkamp and Lane Frilling.
“Give a crapton of credit to Fort Loramie,” Elchert said. “Coach (Corey) Britton does a great job over there. Their kids play extremely hard.
“This isn’t just lip service; he coached them up. They could have easily folded up the tent in the fourth quarter, and they became the aggressor. The end result was we had to make a shot at the buzzer, basically.”
Jackson Center’s 21-point output at Fort Loramie on Jan. 14 has been its lowest scoring total this season.
After a slow first quarter, the Tigers worked the ball well on Friday.
The squads played to 5-5 tie in the first quarter. Fort Loramie took a 9-7 lead early in the second, but Jackson Center finished with an 11-2 run to take an 18-11 halftime lead. Reese hit one 3 during the run and Carson Regula, who led the team with 15 points, made two 3s.
“They came out last game with a lot more energy than we did,” Reese said. “Coming into this game, we knew we had to come out with better energy. Match or exceed theirs. We did, and we shot a lot better from the perimeter. We had guys step up and hit big shots, and with that, it really helped us get that lead going.”
Seven foul shots helped Jackson Center build a 14-10 edge in the third, which pushed the gap to 32-21 heading into the fourth.
But Fort Loramie started the final quarter with a 6-2 run to pull within 34-27 with 6:06 left and kept inching closer.
Ruhenkamp split a pair of free throws with just under two minutes left to bring Fort Loramie within 36-32. Maurer then hit a 3 with 1:15 left to cut the gap to 40-37.
After a Jackson Center turnover, Maurer took a pass and made a layup with 36 seconds left to shrink the gap to 40-39. The Tigers turned it over on their next possession, and Fort Loramie called a timeout.
The Redskins worked it to Maurer, who drove inside while being guarded by Reichert and scored to give Fort Loramie a one-point lead with about 15 seconds left.
It wasn’t the first time Jackson Center has been in a tight spot this year. The Tigers most recently trailed Ansonia by one point early in the fourth quarter of a sectional final on Tuesday before pulling away late.
“At one point in January, we were spinning our wheels a little bit and were 7-6. Now we’ve (won 12 straight).” Elchert said. “… We play a lot of tough games. Our league’s tough and we play a lot of MAC teams and a lot of other good teams like Wapak and LCC.
“We’re used to being in close games. I want to say we don’t get rattled, but we did get a little rattled tonight. We started throwing the ball around and not taking very good care of it and not attacking enough. We had some defensive breakdowns too. But again, we persevered and made a play at the end.”
Catholic Central, which edged Anna 49-46 in the Fort Loramie MLK Day Invitational in January, has won four straight since a 51-46 loss to Troy Christian on Feb. 8.
The Irish are led by junior forward Tyler Galluch, who averages 17.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Senior guard Ashton Young averages 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists. Senior guard Ian Galluch averages 10.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
“We’ve seen a couple of their tournament games so far, and they’re nice,” Elchert said. “SCC has a couple of nice brothers in the Galluch kids.”
The boys D-IV district finals return to the University of Dayton Arena after being played at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center the last two years.
Jackson Center last played at UD Arena in 2020 when it defeated Cincinnati Christian in a regional semifinal. The Tigers were scheduled to play Columbus Wellington in a regional final, but the outbreak of COVID-19 forced the postponement and eventual cancellation of the remainder of the tournament.
Reese, a junior, played on varsity as a freshman two years ago.
“We have unfinished business there,” Reese said of playing at UD. “We want to win there.”
Maurer led Fort Loramie with 21 points, all but two of which came in the second half. He scored 13 in the fourth quarter. Isaac Ratermann added 11.