PIQUA — Not unexpected that a top seed plays with less “focus” than usual when the opponent is 0-22.
It happened on Saturday night in the final game of a Division IV boys sectional tripleheader as No. 1 seed Jackson Center met the winless No. 12 Triad Cardinals.
The Cards 2-3 zone defense threw a net over the black and orange jerseys, much like head coach Scott Elchert’s man-to-man slows down its opposition. Triad’s 6-foot-3 Jacob Simonelli blocked 6-4 Aidan Reichert a couple times near the rim. Simonelli then banked home an offensive stick-back. And the fans in red and white were whooping it up.
Triad was looking good, right? Yes, for the first two minutes and nineteen seconds.
At the game’s end, the Cards were dealt a bad hand and a 51-23 defeat.
With 5:41 on the clock in the initial period, Christopher Elchert waved for the ball as he trailed a semi-fast break chance for the Tigers. He received the pass comfortably behind the arc with plenty of clearance. Swish! Dead center!
Moving forward, after gaining a 3-2 lead, the Tigers also gained concentration on the task at hand. Usually, tigers need to exhale a “loud roar” to catch the attention of other tigers. However, the Elchert “bomb” took its place.
Jackson Center piled up all its 16 first quarter points in a less than five-minute scoring frenzy as TJ Esser poured in six. The margin of ten after a period ballooned to 15, 26-11, at the half after Reichert shook free for a half-dozen, including a trifecta, in the second eight-minute segment.
Meanwhile, the Tigers (18-5) hounded Triad’s shooters and held them to one bucket overlapping eleven minutes of the second and third quarters. Drew Campbell, the Cardinals year-long leading scorer, was limited to a single basket for the evening. Triad made only seven field goals in the game.
The bulge swelled to 40-14 when Trent Platfoot buried a triple to launch the fourth stanza. Triad’s Austin Bails provided his club with some spark when his third three of the night kissed off the backboard and tickled the twine to match the Platfoot hoop.
In fact, the Tigers’ opponent from the village of North Lewisburg in Champaign County never looked anything like a team that had not tasted victory since last season. The Cards played hard from start to finish.
But with just under seven minutes to go, Jackson Center re-focused. Garrett Heitkamp measured home a two-pointer from the wing. Platfoot took aim and tossed in a pair of deuces. And sophomore Trevor Sosby sized up a jumper.
The Tigers fed off 16 Triad turnovers during the first three quarters.
On the night, Reichert displayed strong post play and paced the Tigers with 16. He drained four straight free throws in the second half. Platfoot totaled 14; Esser, 8; and Elchert, 6. Heitkamp, Sosby and Jerron Reese added a basket each. Joey Irwin tacked on a free throw.
With several minutes left in the game, coach Elchert emptied the Tigers den and got them all in the fray.
Jackson Center may face “an even tougher challenge” getting in the right frame of mind for the opening tip this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Bradford, the No. 13 seed, is also winless and has tallied less than 25 points in one-half of its contests. However, do expect the Tigers this time to start sharper…with “added focus.”
More importantly, momentum is essential. Looming in the Saturday lower bracket sectional final is an opponent, either Russia or Fairlawn, which has already beaten the Tigers once this season.