PIQUA — Russia sophomore forward Xavier Philpot has a unique way of throwing an inbounds pass if there’s no open teammates. If all else fails, use an opponents’ back.
He showed off the trick for the second time this season in a Division IV sectional opener against Newton on Saturday at Piqua’s Garbry Gymnasium. Philpot threw the ball inbounds from the baseline off an opponents’ back, stepped inbounds and caught the ball himself.
The first time he did it earlier this season, Philpot made a layup. He quickly passed the ball off after doing it on Saturday, and the Raiders didn’t score on the possession.
“Our first two options weren’t open, and he saw that back and just thought, ‘Instead of getting a 5-second (violation), I’m going to try this again,’” Russia coach Dave Borchers said. “At least we got it inbounds.
“… That’s just him being creative, and I like my guys to be thinking players out there. That was a good thought for that spot.”
The Raiders didn’t need to be too creative on Saturday, though, because of the time baskets were coming easy. The squad built a 15-point lead by the end of the first quarter and cruised from there to a 67-56 win to advance to a sectional final.
“You work on it in practice and don’t know how it’s going to come out in the game, but we got after it and were disciplined that first half and in that third quarter,” Borchers said. “I’m very happy with how we came out and shared the ball and ran what we wanted to run the way it should be run.”
The Raiders (10-13) will face Lehman Catholic (16-4) in a second-round game on Thursday in Piqua. The Cavaliers beat Troy Christian 36-32 in Saturday’s second D-IV sectional semifinal at Garbry Gym.
Russia’s success on Saturday was among the highlights of the youth movement in the program this season. That youth has led to some struggles, though, but Borchers said he’s liked the growth and maturity the underclassmen-heavy team has made this year.
He saw it late in Saturday’s game, even as mistakes were being made that helped Newton make a late comeback try.
The No. 7 seed Indians trailed by 24 points heading into the fourth quarter but took advantage of offensive problems by Russia to get back in the game. The Raiders made a couple of turnovers and missed some quick shots they couldn’t grab rebounds on, and Newton raced down the court and fired 3-pointer after 3-pointer.
Chandler Peters hit five of the team’s six 3’s in the fourth to help the squad pull as close as nine points.
But No. 6 seed Russia stayed calm through it all and began hitting baskets again late in the fourth to ensure the gap never got too close.
“They dialed up the pressure late, and desperation can do some things,” Borchers said. “We didn’t handle it real well for a while. It’s tough to simulate that kind of pressure in practice, so we’re going to have to get after it more and get ready for the next team that wants to do that to us.
“… Some of our guys are young grade-wise, but they’re not young experience-wise anymore. Here we are 23 games into the season; we’re not newbies anymore.
“I think that helped late. Even though some passes got away from us and we got a little excited a couple of times, we still maintained composure. I didn’t see panic or anything like that out there. I think we’re mature enough that we can fight through that. And I know that we’re going to work on that in practice more.”
Six different players scored in the first quarter to help the squad amass an early 17-2 lead. Russia led 21-6 at the end of the quarter and followed with a 15-14 scoring edge in the second to take a 36-20 halftime lead.
Russia outscored the Indians 18-10 in the third to take a 54-30 lead before Newton closed the gap late.
Philpot led the squad with 17 points while sophomore forward Ben Bohman scored 16. Freshman guard Brayden Monnin and freshman guard Hayden Quinter each added 11 points.
“I was very pleased with our shot selection,” Borchers said. “We shared the ball very well and found the open man.”
Lehman, which was voted the sectional’s No. 4 seed, advanced on Saturday in a defensive battle that couldn’t have looked more different from the game before it.
Neither Troy Christian nor the Cavaliers shot better than 36 percent from the floor. Lehman gained control in the first quarter and held on from there thanks in part to solid rebounding.
“We have our staples,” Lehman coach Pat Carlisle said. “We’ve been a very good defensive team throughout the year, as our scores have shown. Normally we take care of the ball pretty well and take good shots.”
The Eagles scored the game’s first five points but then didn’t score for an eight-minute stretch. Luke Frantz hit a 3 late in the first to give Lehman a 7-5 lead heading into the second, and Donovan O’Leary scored five points in the second to help lead a 10-5 scoring edge that gave the team a 17-10 halftime lead.
The Cavaliers didn’t score for over six minutes in the second half. The No. 5 Eagles cut the gap to 25-24 early in the fourth but still couldn’t hit enough shots to take control.
Lehman pulled away from the free-throw line late by hitting 10-of-13 attempts in the fourth. Frantz made the team’s only field goal in the fourth; the squad made two field goals in the third.
“Our kids did a great job late of just knowing the game plan and staying with it,” Carlisle said.
The Eagles came as close as 33-32 in the final two minutes after a 3 by Lucas Day, but the Cavaliers hit three late foul shot to ice it.
Frantz finished with 12 points while O’Leary finished with 10. Justin Chapman had eight rebounds and three blocks and Michael McFarland had six rebounds and four assists.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.