DAYTON — Russia fell right into Emmanuel Christian’s plan early in a Division IV district final on Friday at UD Arena, but a scheme change quickly turned the game in the Raiders’ favor.
After committing 10 fouls in the first 11 minutes of the game, Russia abandoned its man-to-man defense and went to a 1-3-1 zone. The Raiders stopped fouling and rattled off 22 straight points to jumpstart a 65-33 win.
Russia (16-8) advances to the face Fort Loramie in a regional semifinal next Tuesday at Kettering Fairmont’s Trent Arena. Fort Loramie beat Middletown Christian 68-33 in Friday’s third district final.
The Lions (10-15) led 18-16 with 4:45 left in the first quarter but didn’t score again until the 4:10 mark in the third.
“We had to switch to that,” Russia coach Spencer Cordonnier said of the move to a 1-3-1. “We had to go to it. It’s been good to us this year — not all the time, but it’s been very good to us. We’re pretty long, and when we put Hunter (Cohee), Jack (Dapore) and Daniel (Kearns) out top and put our fastest guy down low, it works. We just see what happens.
“It’s a calculated gamble sometimes with those defenses. We’ve won more than we’ve lost gambling like that.”
Emmanuel Christian coach Dan Moore said the Raiders’ height in the zone made the difference. Dapore is 6-foot-3, Cohee is 6-4 and Kearns is 6-5.
“They were just longer than what you think,” Moore said. “I think our guys thought we could split them a couple of times. They’re just long and had us fumbling the ball around a lot. They’re so long that, all of a sudden, that little bit of lane you think you have to make a pass shortens up really quick and you make a turnover.
“And then obviously, trying to keep them off the boards was a tall task. They’re all over the boards.”
Dapore led Russia with 21 points, including five 3s, while Cohee had 10 points. Both had four rebounds. Mason Dapore finished with nine points while Kearns and Dion Puthoff scored eight. Evan Monnier led the team with nine rebounds and scored seven points.
The Raiders shot 25 for 44 (56.8 percent) from the field, including 6 for 14 from 3-point range. The Raiders had a 30-16 rebounding advantage.
Russia scored the last 13 points of the second quarter to take a 29-18 lead and then opened the third quarter with nine consecutive points, which Mason Dapore capped off with a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Jack Dapore hit a 3 with about five minutes left in the fourth to put the Raiders up 60-27, and the margin reached 35 points soon after, which resulted in the game finishing with a running clock.
Jack Dapore, a senior, has played varsity each of the last two years. Russia lost in sectional finals each of the last two years to Fort Loramie after having beaten the Redskins twice in regular season each year.
“It feels great, after not having got to come down here the last two years,” Jack Dapore said. “Finally here senior year feels great. …It was very painful (losing to Loramie in sectional finals). It’s one of the worst pains I’ve felt. I knew I had get here senior year, so I did everything I could, and the team did everything it could.”
Russia lost to the Redskins 47-32 on Jan. 5 in Fort Loramie and 52-35 on Feb. 16 at home.
“We just need to go in thinking that they’re not going to run all over us like they did,” Dapore said. “We just need to keep it close and really just find the open man and play some good defense.”
Adonis Davis completed two three-point plays in the first three minutes of the first quarter to put Emmanuel up 8-3. Evan Monnier hit a basket with 2:21 left to cap off a 7-2 run and tie the squads 10-10.
Russia picked up its seventh foul of the first half before the end of the first, and Davis and Jason Channels hit free throws to help Emmanuel amass a 13-12 lead by the end of the first.
Russia picked up its 10th foul with 5:56 left in the first, and Caleb Wellman hit a basket about a minute later to put the Lions up 18-16.
The Raiders switched to their 1-3-1 zone shortly after, though, and held Emmanuel scoreless over the next eight minutes and 30 seconds. Russia scored 13 points in the last 4:30 to take control of the game — and didn’t commit a foul.
Jack Dapore started the run with a 3-pointer, then Kearns and Mason Dapore followed with baskets to put Russia ahead 23-18. Cohee made a basket with 1:36 left, then Mason Dapore scored two baskets over the final 70 seconds of the first to put the Raiders ahead 29-18.
“We were just taking some quick shots at the beginning,” Jack Dapore said. “Nervous shots, and they didn’t fall. We just had to slow things down, and we hit shots. …It’s a little bit different shooting here at Dayton with no background, but as soon as a couple started to fall, it looked better.”
Davis led the Lions with 13 points while Nick Kittles scored nine.
Cordonnier was pleased with the defensive effort against Davis and Fred Shropshire, who scored two points. The players averaged 17.7 and 11.4 points per game, respectively, coming into the game.
“We had to play attention to where Shropshire and Davis were at, and also where Kittles was at,” Cordonnier said. “(Davis) hit a couple of 3s, but one was in the first half and one was in the second half. Hats off to our kids. They knew where those guys were at at all times.”
Tuesday’s regional semifinal against Fort Loramie with tip off at 8 p.m.
“They’re the team to beat,” Cordonnier said of the Redskins. “… We’ll prepare for them the next few days, and Tuesday night when the ball goes up in the air, here we go again. It’s that time of year — anybody’s ball game.”
Emmanuel made its first district final appearance on Friday and will return several players next year, including Davis and Shropshire.
Moore was pleased with how the Lions finished the season and is optimistic about the program’s future. Emmanuel was 3-9 in late January and finished the rest of the season 7-6.
“We lose three seniors that played a key part in us being gritty and having a good defensive year,” Moore said. “We certainly bring back some guys that have been able to watch seniors play hard. We have some talent coming up that I’m expecting a lot out of, and guys that will be hungry.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.