Boys basketball: Lehman Catholic holds on, beats Botkins 33-30 in district semifinal


TROY — Lehman Catholic saw leads evaporate in the fourth quarter and overtime on Wednesday and managed to rally each time.

The Cavaliers didn’t want to have to rally again, and they played stellar defense in the final seconds on Saturday to help preserve a lead.

Lehman survived a last-second shot and beat Botkins 33-30 in a Division IV district semifinal at Troy High School’s Trojan Activities Center. The victory earns the squad a spot in its first district final since 2011.

“Defensively, all year, we’ve been strong,” Lehman Catholic senior forward Donovan O’Leary said. “We play super hard, rebound super well. I’ve got to give credit to them, because they were crashing the boards, rebounding all over us. Shelby County League, you know they’re going to play good defense.

“But we found a way to get it done defensively. They had a lot of shooters, and we forced them to be drivers.”

Botkins cut the gap to 33-30 with 20 seconds left, and the Cavaliers (18-6) missed two free throws with 18.7 seconds left.

The Trojans worked the ball down and missed a shot but maintained possession. The teams took a few timeouts. After a foul, Botkins worked it in from in front of its bench with under two seconds left.

JJ Meyer, who hit a game-winner against Lehman in sectional final last year, took the inbounds pass about five feet out on the left side, and he shot with two defenders trying to block. His 3 hit off the rim as time expired.

“We wanted to run them off the line,” O’Leary said. “We couldn’t lose any single one of them, because all five of them shot above 30, 40 percent from 3. In high school, that’s crazy.

“We were there on the catch. Switching and communication was key on that last play. A 25-footer, contested, that’s what you wanted there.”

Lehman trailed Southeastern 23-5 late in the second quarter of a sectional final on Wednesday but took a lead in the fourth quarter before the Trojans forced overtime. The Cavaliers lost a lead in overtime, but CJ Olding hit a 3 to lift the squad to a 46-44 win.

“When you’re down 23-5 and you find a way to win, your locker room’s together,” Lehman Catholic coach Pat Carlisle said. “… Our motto all day today was, ‘Why can’t Lehman win this game?’ We worked, we prepped really, really hard defensively, and like we have all year, we played some really, really sound defense tonight against a really, really good Botkins team.

“… This was old-school basketball the way it was meant to be played. We were fortunate tonight we made a couple more plays.”

Lehman has amassed its most wins since 2011, and Carlisle said it’s the fifth or sixth most wins in a season in program history.

The Cavaliers struggled against the top teams in the Three Rivers Conference and finished fourth behind Troy Christian, Northridge and Miami East. O’Leary said the tough TRC matchups made the team battle-tested heading into postseason play.

The Cavaliers will face Jackson Center (16-9) in a district final next Saturday at University of Dayton Arena.

“It might sound a little cringey, but it is a dream come true,” O’Leary said. “This whole year, we’ve been saying this is our year to make a run. We’ve got the players, we’ve got the talent. We’ve just got to have the desire. We came out tonight, and showed we wanted it.”

The Tigers beat Franklin-Monroe 38-31 in a district semifinal on Saturday at Piqua’s Garbry Gymnasium to advance.

“They’ll be tough, but just like we did last week, in tournament, it’s win or die,” O’Leary said. “We’re ready to go out, prep, practice like crazy and go out and play like crazy.”

O’Leary, who was a first team all-TRC selection, led the squad with 10 points; he went over 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds on Wednesday.

Devin Pride scored nine off the bench, including two 3-pointers.

“Talk about grabbing the moment and being ready to play,” Carlisle said. “We talk a lot about when somebody plays off you, let’s take a couple to draw them out. Boy, did he pick a right time to make a couple.”

Lehman trailed 18-13 late in the third quarter after the Trojans scored the first six points of the half. But the Cavaliers quickly made two 3-pointers to take a 19-18 lead, and Turner Lachey hit a 3 from the left wing late in the quarter to give the squad a 22-20 lead heading into the fourth.

Lachey’s 3 was the first in a 9-0 run that gave the Cavaliers the lead for good. He made a basket early in the fourth, Da’Ron Pride made a basket and O’Leary made two foul shots during the run to give Lehman a 28-20 lead with a little over three minutes left.

O’Leary said a focus on rebounding in the second half, especially defensively, helped power the strong second half run.

“In the first half, they outrebounded us by seven, eight rebounds, and Coach said to us when we came in the locker room that it had to change, we had to box out, rebound,” O’Leary said.

Carlisle credited Lachey for hitting key shots and handling it well after the Cavaliers built their lead.

“He was really good a year ago, and he drove a couple times baseline right side in front of our bench, and I thought it looked like Turner from a year ago in this game,” Carlisle said. “It was a collective team effort. We’re just really, really happy to keep practicing.”

Botkins fought to get back in it. Jordan Herzog made a four-point play with 2:35 left to cut the gap to 28-24.

After a timeout, O’Leary made a basket with under a minute left to push the lead to six after nearly having lost the ball while catching a pass while running down the lane.

“Donovan has been a really good locker room leader, along with Seth Kennedy,” Carlisle said. “… They had a great defensive game plan that made Donovan work.

Collin Doseck made 3-of-3 foul shot attempts to cut the gap to 31-27.

Devin Pride made two foul shots to give Lehman a 33-27 lead with 24 seconds left, but the Trojans quickly worked it down to Noah Topp, who hit a 3 from the left wing to cut the gap to three points.

Botkins finishes 18-7 overall. The Trojans will lose four seniors to graduation: Herzog, Meyer, Rylyn Paul and Grant Flora.

“My hat’s off to them,” Carlisle said. “They had an incredible season and Phil (Groves) does a heck of a job with them.”

Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.

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