PIQUA — Lehman Catholic knew what was coming in a Division IV sectional opener on Friday against Mississinawa Valley. The squads battled in a low-scoring nonconference game on Jan. 11 that the Blackhawks won by four points in Sidney.
Knowing what to expect and handling Mississinawa Valley’s defensive pressure were two different matters, though.
The Cavaliers struggled shooting in the first half and struggled to rebound all night as Mississinawa Valley pulled away late to a 38-31 victory at Piqua’s Garbry Gymnasium.
The No. 7 seed Blackhawks (12-11) advance to face No. 3 seed Fort Loramie (15-7) in a sectional final on Tuesday in Piqua. It will be the first tournament game for the Redskins, which took a first-round bye.
Lehman lost the team’s regular-season matchup 33-29 and didn’t fair much better offensively on Friday. Mississinawa Valley built a 16-11 lead by halftime and pushed their lead to as many as nine points in the second half.
“We knew going in we were going to have two very prepared teams,” Lehman coach Pat Carlisle said. “We talked about it all week. Grinding, defensive game. Each team was trying to play a very technical brand, and nothing was simply easy.
“We just struggled early and (Mississinawa) was able to get up. That was kind of the margin throughout the game. Give them credit, they were ready. We were ready as well, but they just scored more points.”
Lehman, which was the sectional’s No. 6 seed, finishes 12-11 overall. It’s the first time the squad has posted a winning record since a 14-10 campaign in 2014-15.
“It was an incredible season,” Carlisle, a second-year coach, said. “The last two years, we’ve done things in the program that have achieved values. We’re going to leave unsatisfied, of course — that’s how basketball works. But we’re extremely proud of our season and how we represented our school and our parents.”
Both squads struggled to hit shots in the first quarter. Max Dirmeyer made a basket with 1:10 left to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead, and neither team scored again.
The Blackhawks were the first to find a shooting groove in the second. After Luke Frantz made a free throw to tie it, Cody Dirksen completed a three-point play with 7:27 left, then Trey Godfrey made two foul shots and Alex Scholl followed with a jumper to give Mississinawa Valley a 10-3 lead with 6:14 left.
“If we’d have hit a couple more early, does that change everything? Probably, but we didn’t,” Carlisle said.
Aside from Lehman’s poor early shooting, the squad struggled to grab rebounds and frequently was limited to one-shot possessions.
“Tip you hat to (Dirksen),” Carlisle said. “I don’t know how many rebounds he had, but he was definitely a force inside grabbing the ball. (Godfrey) had a couple of big ones for them. Tip your hat to them and wish them the best of luck.”
Frantz hit a 3 with four seconds left in the second quarter to help Lehman pull within 16-11 at halftime. He hit a 3 in the first minute of the third, then O’Leary made a basket after a steal with 6:05 left to bring the squad within 18-16.
That was as close as the Cavaliers came, as Mississinawa Valley scored the next seven points to push their lead to 25-18 with 3:20 left. The squad led 30-23 at the end of the third.
Frantz hit a 3 from the left wing with 1:33 left to bring Lehman within 34-29 but Josh Fett made 3-of-4 free-throw attempts over the next minute to push the team’s lead to 37-29.
Frantz, a junior guard, led the Cavaliers with 16 points while O’Leary, a senior guard, scored 12.
Lehman will lose three seniors to graduation: O’Leary, Drew Barhorst and Gabe Knapke.
“They helped change a lot in the last couple of years with the way we go about our business,” Carlisle said. “That is very, very difficult to see like great kids like that leave.”
Fett led Mississinawa Valley with 13 points.
Botkins 65, Newton 35
Botkins ran away in the fourth quarter to a lopsided victory in Friday’s second Div. IV sectional semifinal in Piqua.
Newton used a 16-10 scoring advantage in the third quarter to pull within 37-30. Jayden Priddy-Powell scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth, though, to help the Trojans secure it.
“We went to our spread offense, and that eliminates helpside and gives him an opportunity to get into the gaps and get to the rim,” Botkins coach Sean Powell said. “Our first option was to attack and go score, and if the defense attacks, he hits the open man. Denton Homan got on and-one off of that.”
The No. 2 seed Trojans (17-6) advance to face No. 11 Riverside in a sectional final on Tuesday in Piqua. The Pirates (6-16) took a first-round bye.
The Trojans beat Riverside 77-46 in a nonconference game on Dec. 21 in Botkins.
“That was months ago,” Powell said. “Now it’s a one-game season. …They’re going to come in here and fight hard. They’re well-coached and have a great shooter on the perimeter. We’re going to have to go and game plan and be able to shut them down.
Zane Paul hit a 3-pointer with 3:02 left in the first to give the Trojans a 13-5 lead. He hit a basket with 4:10 left in the second to give the team a 24-12 lead, but the squad struggled to score the rest of the quarter.
Jameson Meyer hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer, though, to push Botkins’ lead to 27-14 at halftime.
Newton got back in it in the third quarter. Andrew Whitaker hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final 70 seconds to help the squad pull within seven points.
Then it changed in a hurry. Paul hit a 3 to boost the squad’s lead to 42-30 with 6:21 left, then Priddy made consecutive three-point plays and hit a shot off the glass in a 45-second span to boost the lead to 50-32 with 5:15 left.
“Their zone made us work the ball a little more than we were accustomed to, but there in the third quarter we had a solid lead and forced them to come out of the zone, and that allowed us to open up our offense,” Powell said.
Paul finished with 18 points. Mitchell Montgomery led Newton with 11.
Newton, the sectional’s No. 12 seed, finishes 6-17 overall.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.