The showdown is now set.
No. 3 seed Russia (15-8) will play top seed Jackson Center (19-5) in a Division IV sectional final at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Garbry Gymnasium after semifinal wins on Thursday.
The two teams split in regular-season play. The Tigers won the first matchup 48-44 on Nov. 30 in Russia and the Raiders won the second matchup 60-53 in overtime on Jan. 11 in Jackson Center.
Russia 68, Fairlawn 50
Russia got off to a fast start against a dangerous Fairlawn team to open a 45-22 lead at halftime and the Jets could never recover.
Russia was able to get its transition game going early and post Daniel Kearns was unstoppable in the opening half.
“That was something we needed to do,” Russia coach Dave Borchers said about the transition game. “Fairlawn does such a great job pressuring you off defensive rebounds and on inbounds plays.”
Kearns had six points in the early going and Evan Monnier added five as the Raiders took a 13-4 lead to force a Fairlawn timeout with 3:34 left in the first quarter.
“They were able to come out and kind of sock us in the mouth,” Fairlawn coach Justin Tidwell said.
Russia led 17-9 after one quarter and extended it to 45-22 at halftime.
Kearns was a big part of that.
When he wasn’t beating Fairlawn down the floor for easy baskets, he was knocking down jumpers.
He scored 10 points in the opening quarter and six more in the second quarter, going 7-for-7 from the floor and hitting both his free throw attempts in the opening half.
“We thought we could be successful getting the ball inside to Daniel (Kearns),” Borchers said. “And we were able to do that. I thought our guards did a great job sharing the ball. Mason Dapore did a great job getting the ball in the right guys hands. Will Sherman and Evan Monnier did a great job sharing the ball. Both Yorks (Jordan and Michael) did a great job scoring the ball.”
Russia led 59-34 after three quarters, before Fairlawn closed the gap in the fourth quarter.
Kearns finished with 18 points and five rebounds for the Raiders, while Monnier added 12 points. Sherman had eight points and six assists, Dapore had seven points, four assists and three steals and Jordan York had seven points and five rebounds.
“Mason Dapore allows us to do a lot of things,” Borchers said. “I know it doesn’t always show up in the boxscore, but he does a great job handling the other team’s pressure and getting the ball in the right guy’s hands.”
Skyler Piper had 20 points for Fairlawn.
Ashton Piper added nine points and nine rebounds, which included a lob pass in the opening half going in the basket for three points.
Caleb Puckett made the final shot of his career, a 3-pointer in the final minute of the game —- with fans from both teams erupting in loud cheers.
Russia was 26-of-53 from the floor for 49 percent, including 4-of-9 from long range for 44 percent. The Raiders made 12-of-19 free throws for 63 percent.
Fairlawn was 18-of-46 from the floor for 39 percent, including 8-of-18 on 3-pointers for 44 percent. The Jets converted 6-of-11 free throws for 55 percent.
Russia won the battle of the boards 36-25 and outscored Fairlawn in the paint 40-18. The Raiders had nine turnovers to the Jets’ 13, outscoring Fairlawn 16-3 off turnovers and 18-4 in fastbreak points.
Fairlawn, who closes at 12-12, outscored Russia 10-6 on second-chance points. The Jets return all five starters next season.
“For having such an inexperienced team, we had some big wins during the season,” Tidwell said. “Anytime you go .500 in the Shelby County League, you have had a good season.”
Russia looks forward to the next challenge Saturday.
“They are all big challenges and I mean that,” Borchers said. “Because, of what is at stake. We are thrilled to get this win and move on and we will see what Saturday brings.”
Jackson Center 54, Bradford 11
The Tigers defense was too much for 0-23 Bradford all night.
Jackson Center led 15-2, 33-7 and 42-9 at the quarter breaks.
Aiden Reichert had 14 points and five rebounds for the Tigers. Trent Platfoot had 12 points and three steals, while TJ Esser had nine points and four steals. Christopher Elchert had four assists and four steals.
Kegan Fair led Bradford with nine points. Gaven Trevino grabbed four rebounds and Gage Wills dished out three assists.
Jackson Center was 22 for 39 from the floor for 56 percent, including 3 for 11 from 3-point range for 27 percent. The Tigers made 7-of-13 free throws for 54 percent.
Bradford was 5-of-15 from the floor for 33 percent and missed both of its 3-point attempts. The Railroaders were 1-of-2 from the foul line.
Jackson Center won the battle of the boards 18-14 and had seven turnovers to Bradford’s 29.
The Tigers outscored the Railroaders 32-10 in the paint, 33-2 off turnovers, 4-0 on second chance points, 12-0 on fastbreak points and 10-0 off the bench.
Reach Rob Kiser at (937) 451-3334.