Boys basketball: Jackson Center beats Lehman Catholic, wins 2nd straight district title


DAYTON — Jackson Center went through early struggles playing against strong competition while it adjusted to losing five players to graduation and having Aaron Klopfenstein take over as coach.

The lessons were evident on Saturday.

Jackson Center won its second consecutive district title by beating Lehman Catholic 48-41 on Saturday at University of Dayton Arena. The Tigers advance to face Troy Christian in a Division IV regional semifinal on Tuesday at Trent Arena in Kettering.

Jackson Center (17-9) has won seven consecutive games and 11 of its last 14.

“There was some adversity that we had to overcome and our guys bought in and our senior leaders bought in, and we’re able to be here because of that buy-in,” Klopfenstein, who took over for longtime coach Scott Elchert, said. “It’s not easy to do when you start, 0-3 or you’re .500 (in January).

“… We graduated five very productive senior starters from last year. All these guys have been in our program for a while, and we talked before the game they’re built for this. Our youth development and how we build our teams, it’s days like today.”

Lucas Hartle led Jackson Center with 18 points, 11 of which came in the first half; he also had six rebounds and two blocks. Reed Platfoot scored 12 and Lucas Heitkamp scored nine. Platfoot had nine rebounds and Heitkamp and Trever Huber each brought down seven.

The Tigers had a 36-22 rebounding edge and scored 14 points on second-chance looks, while the Cavaliers scored two points on second-chance opportunities.

“Jackson Center is a very disciplined, strong team, and that showed tonight,” Lehman Catholic coach Pat Carlisle said.

Donovan O’Leary led Lehman with 11 points and nine rebounds. Shane Frantz scored eight points.

Lehman Catholic finishes 18-7 overall. The squad advanced to its first district final since 2011.

“We had an incredible season,” Carlisle said. “You want to win one more game, but everything the team accomplished throughout, we have nothing to be ashamed of. We lost to a very good team. If your season’s going to end, it’s not a bad way, to a really good team at UD Arena.”

The Cavaliers will lose two seniors to graduation: O’Leary and Seth Kennedy. O’Leary was a second team all-Southwest district selection in D-IV and was a first team all-TRC selection.

“Donovan will end with one of the greatest Lehman Catholic careers ever, if not the best,” Carlisle said. “Most all-time wins, went over 1,000 points, 500 rebounds. Seth Kennedy, an absolute joy to have around the team from a leadership point of view. We got better having both of them around. This year, Seth coming back out helped the cause.”

Jackson Center will face a second consecutive Three Rivers Conference team in postseason play when it takes on Troy Christian. The Eagles (24-2), which won the TRC and were ranked No. 4 in the final D-IV Associated Press poll of the season, beat Miami Valley Christian 58-32 to advance.

Troy Christian beat the Tigers 42-35 in Jackson Center on Jan. 6. Senior guard Parker Penrod scored 14 points in the win; he was named TRC player of the year and has surpassed 1,000 career points.

“Parker Penrod is a heck of a good player, but they have a lot of pieces around him,” Klopfenstein said. “It’s not just Penrod. It’s about controlling everyone, not just him, but all those other guys.”

The teams traded baskets early, but Jackson Center scored 10 straight points to push its lead to 21-6 early in the second quarter.

The Cavaliers, which rallied from a 23-5 deficit to beat Southeastern in a sectional final, shot better in the second quarter and cut the gap to 26-19 at halftime.

Lehman started the third quarter well and pulled within 32-29, but Jackson Center pulled out to a 39-29 lead by the end of the quarter and pushed its lead to 14 before the Cavaliers scored the last seven points.

“The rest of that third quarter, we controlled our offense a little bit better, which gave our defense a chance to set up,” Klopfenstein said. “… When we got them in the half court, it felt like we had good opportunities to get stops.”

Lehman accumulated fouls late as it tried to rally, and the Tigers hit 8-of-14 foul shots in the second half to help solidify the win.

“We had to start going for some, and give them credit, they have great players,” Carlisle said. “They attack the glass like hyenas. They got a lot of offensive rebounds tonight.”

Tuesday’s regional semifinal is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. The winner will face the winner of Russia vs. Lancaster Fisher Catholic in a regional final on Friday in Kettering.

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

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