VANDALIA — Jackson Center and Cedarville’s Division IV district final rematch on Saturday at Vandalia-Butler’s Student Activity Center was closer than last year’s matchup, despite that not looking likely early.
The Indians were able to earn a victory this time, as they outscored the Tigers by 11 points in the second half to win the game 50-48 and win their first district title since 2005.
Jackson Center led 28-19 at halftime but couldn’t stop Cedarville senior Trent Koning in the second half. Koning, who scored seven points in a 33-30 loss to the Tigers in a district final last year, scored 20 in the second half to lead the comeback.
“We didn’t make enough plays,” Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert said. “We came up one or two plays short. Koning hit some tremendous shots for them and is a hell of a player and a tough guard.”
Trailing 50-48, Jackson Center senior forward Aidan Reichert missed a shot with about 18 seconds left. Cedarville grabbed the rebound and called a timeout, but Koning stepped out of bounds shortly after taking an inbounds pass with 14 seconds left.
Camdyn Reese worked the ball down the court and collided with Cedarville’s Payton Herron while throwing a pass. The ball was chased down by Carson Regula, but he had a pass blocked by two defenders, and the ball rolled back down the court and was recovered by the Indians with one second left.
“We were going to run a post-iso for Reichert and then we have Regula coming off of him in a staggered screen,” Elchert said. “He would have been coming off the stagger and we would have had (Jace) Mullenhour popping to the corner. I felt like we were going to be able to get a shot for either Reichert, Regula or Mullenhour.”
There was plenty of contact when Reese and Regula tangled with Cedarville defenders late, and plenty of contact when Reichert, a 6-foot-5 forward, tried to find a shots inside all game.
“It’s been a common theme all year, but I felt like Reichert just took a pounding inside,” Elchert said. “I don’t understand how he can get hammered on. He had to hang tough, let’s put it that way.”
Koning led Cedarville (23-1) with 30 points while Isaiah Ramey finished with eight.
Regula led Jackson Center (19-7) with 15 points. Mullenhour finished with 12 and Reichert finished with 10.
The Tigers will lose six seniors to graduation, including Reichert, who signed with Mercyhurst University in November. The squad will also lose Ian Platfoot, Ryan West, Cameron Ross, Trevor Sosby and Jacob Vetter to graduation. Sosby started but sprained his ankle in the first half on Saturday.
“The biggest thing I would complement this team on is their chemistry,” Elchert said. “Of the six seniors, only two of them got playing time. But the other four seniors in (the locker room) tonight were hurting equally as much as those two.
“… Sosby was a big part of what we do defensively. I’m not trying to make excuses, but it hurt not having him. We tried going with him, but he just couldn’t cut like he’s normally able to.”
Regula hit a 3 with 3:23 left to give Jackson Center a 46-44 lead and hit another to push the advantage to four points, but Ramey responded with a 3 from the right wing to close the gap to 48-47.
Koning hit a 3 with 1:13 left to give the Tigers a 50-48 lead. The Tigers’ next possession ended when Reichert was called for an offensive foul.
Cedarville ran the clock down some before Jackson Center fouled Koning, who missed a one-and-one opportunity. The Tigers grabbed the rebound, but Recihert then missed the shot with about 18 seconds left.
Jackson Center hit five 3-pointers in the first half to take control early. Mullenhour scored two in the first quarter to lead a 12-7 advantage, then Regula made two in the second to lead a 16-12 scoring edge that boosted the gap to nine points at halftime.
Koning was unstoppable in the second half, as he drove by Reese, Reichert and anyone else who defended him.
He scored 15 points in the third quarter to lead a 23-11 scoring advantage that gave the Indians a 42-39 lead heading into the fourth, including a layup with six seconds left.
Cedarville will face Tri-Village in a regional semifinal on Tuesday. The winner will face the Botkins vs. Newark Catholic winner in a regional final on Saturday.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.