CLAYTON — Anna was able to pull away late after getting early challenges from Ohio Heritage Conference schools in both of its sectional games and is hoping for faster starts the rest of its tournament run.
The Rockets scored the last 10 points of the second quarter to break a tie, then pulled away in the second half to a 62-47 win over Springfield Northeastern in a Division III sectional final on Tuesday at Northmont High School’s Thunderdome.
Tuesday’s win came four days after a 15-point win over Mechanicsburg in which the squad had to overcome an early deficit and didn’t pull away until the fourth quarter.
“I don’t know what it is, but the last couple of games we were struggling, maybe trying to find ourselves or whatever early,” Anna coach Nate Barhorst said. “We’re preaching to bring 32 minutes together. I understand teams are trying to play up and maybe have good plan, but we just could not get ourselves going until we made some adjustments in the second quarter.”
Despite the early struggles, No. 3 seed Anna (19-5) will play for its fourth consecutive district final berth on Saturday when it faces No. 5 Dayton Meadowdale in a D-III district semifinal at Northmont. The Lions beat Carlisle 54-43 in Tuesday’s second sectional final to advance.
“As we keep going, we’re just going to keep having quicker, more athletic, more stout opponents,” Barhorst said. “I’ve liked how quick and how tough we’ve been able to play so far, but we’re going to have to find a way to establish our tempo a little bit earlier and keep that momentum going.”
The Jets and Rockets traded baskets early on Tuesday. Northeastern took a 13-12 lead late in the first quarter, but Ben Kovacs made a late basket and Isaiah Masteller scored on a drive as time expired to give the team a 16-13 lead.
Northeastern fought back to tie it 20-20 before Anna scored the last 10 points of the second quarter. Masteller and Zach Ambos made three-point plays during the run to help the squad take control by halftime.
Masteller scored 11 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter to help lead a 19-11 scoring edge that pushed the lead to 49-31 heading into the fourth.
“In the second half, I was a lot more proud of how we came out quick and established the tempo, made shots, made the extra pass and found the open man,” Barhorst said. “We finally started boxing out and rebounding, which was a big concern in the first half.”
Masteller, a senior guard who was recently named second team all-Shelby County Athletic League, has powered the Rockets so far in postseason play. He scored 29 points in Friday’s win over Mechanicsburg.
“He’s been playing really well the last three or four weeks where he’s been starting to really apply himself, not just on the offensive end but on the defensive end,” Barhorst said. “That’s what I’m really pleased with. Seeing that out of him is only going to help our cause down the stretch.”
Kovacs finished with 12 points while McKane Finkenbine added 11 and Ambos added eight.
Anna shot 27 for 44 (61 percent) from the floor while Northeastern shot 18 for 43 (42 percent). The Rockets had a 26-21 rebounding edge.
The No. 15 seed Jets finish 11-10 overall.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.