CLAYTON — Anna dominated in both of its first two sectional games but really turned the pressure up in the second half of each.
The Rockets got a bit of a challenge early in a Division III sectional final against Preble Shawnee on Saturday at Northmont’s Thunderdome, but they came up with their biggest second half of the tournament yet.
Anna turned a seven-point lead late in the second quarter into a 75-32 victory, which earns the program its second consecutive sectional title.
“It’s nice to win another sectional, but we are not just done yet,” Anna coach Nate Barhorst said. “I think that the Anna record for most wins in a season is 25 by the team that went to state (in 2008).”
The Rockets (23-2) will try to take their next step toward matching that record in a Div. III district final against Clark Montessori (16-8) at 5 p.m. on Sunday at UD Arena.
Anna took control early on Saturday and led 26-19 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. Barhorst called a timeout, and Anna finished with two baskets before the buzzer, including a layup by Bart Bixler after he took a defensive rebound and raced up the floor for a layup.
The second half started out well for Anna. Bixler nailed down a 3-pointer, Carter Elliott followed with a jumper and Riley Huelskamp grabbed a missed shot and put it back in to cap off a 7-0 run in the first two minutes that pushed the lead to 37-19.
Preble Shawnee managed just one point in first five minutes of the third quarter. Justin Murray and Doseck each added a late bucket and Bixler hit a fade away 3 at the buzzer to boost Anna’s lead to 53-22.
Barhorst was proud of the squad’s 23-3 scoring advantage in the quarter, which he said was fueled by the team’s aggressive man-to-man defense.
“We stress the ball pressure and the kids know that and play it well,” Barhorst said. “It puts our opponents in negative situations. We definitely played with much more aggressiveness in that quarter.”
Carter Elliott drained two 3s to increase Anna’s lead to 62-27. Barhorst cleared the bench with just over three minutes left — and those players continued the team’s hot shooting. Hayden Billing, Isaiah Masteller and McKane Finkenbine each hit 3s late in the fourth, with Anna’s starters cheering wildly on the bench.
Anna was led in scoring by Bixler with 20 points. Griffin Doseck had 14 points and seven rebounds, Elliott had 12 points and three rebounds and Murray scored four points and had eight rebounds. Huelskamp added six points and Kamren Steward finished with seven.
Bryce Singleton was the only Arrow in double figures as he scored 12 points. Preble Shawnee, which was the No. 13 seed, finishes 11-14 overall.
Anna, which was the No. 1 seed in the Dayton D-III sectional, will try for its first district championship since 2010 on Sunday. Clark Montessori, which was the No. 8 seed in the Cincinnati D-III sectional, upset No. 2 Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy 51-42 in a sectional final on Saturday.
The Cougars, which won the Miami Valley Conference Scarlet Division, have won 10 consecutive games. They average 57.3 points per game and allow an average of 49.6. Three players average over 11 points per game, led by senior forward Marlin Lyons, who averages 14.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.
The Rockets started the game with an 11-3 scoring run in the first five minutes that Steward capped off with a basket. Doseck had a fast-break jam in the first two minutes of the game.
The Rockets led 15-6 at the end of the first quarter, and Bixler made a three-point play to push the lead to 21-11. Shawnee went on an 8-5 run to cut the lead to seven before Anna pulled away.