Saturday, March 1st, 2008
By Ryan Hines
Rangers pull away in fourth quarter
New Knoxville captures second straight district championship
WAPAKONETA - The New Knoxville Rangers saved their best for last on Friday night against Fort Recovery in the Division IV district finals at Wapakoneta High School.
An 18-5 advantage in the fourth quarter allowed New Knoxville to turn a close game into a 63-46 victory over Fort Recovery.
It's the second straight district title for New Knoxville (23-0), which will advance to the D-IV regional tournament at the University of Dayton beginning on Tuesday evening at 6:15 p.m. against Houston.
The final score wasn't an indicator as to how close the game actually was through the first three quarters. Fort Recovery was never able to take the lead in the game but the Indians did force a tie at 39-39 following a 9-2 run midway through the third quarter.
New Knoxville held a four-point lead after three quarters of play but then the Rangers put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. The Rangers rattled off a 9-2 run to start the final eight minutes of action which resulted in a 55-42 lead for top-ranked New Knoxville.
"We started getting the ball inside more in the fourth quarter and we were getting fouled and we were able to make our free throws," said New Knoxville head coach Dan Hegemier, one of three coaches named Northwest District Coach of the Year. "We didn't just come down and shoot three-pointers, we got the ball inside."
A Bobby Rammel three-pointer for Fort Recovery momentarily stalled the New Knoxville scoring spurt, but the Rangers then outscored the Indians 8-1 in the final 3:09 of play for the 17-point victory.
"We knew that this game was going to be closer than when we played the first time around (Rangers won 73-40 on Jan. 4)," said Piehl. "The game was a lot closer than the final score shows."
Fort Recovery's upset aspirations faded in the fourth quarter as top scorers Greg Kahlig, Clint Tobe and Rammel all fouled out of the game in the final 2:37. The Indians' trio combined to score 40 points, 14 each from Kahlig and Rammel to lead the way.
Piehl was nearly unstoppable in the post as he scored a game-high 24 points, with the help of a 12-of-13 showing from the free-throw line, while also grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with a game-high five assists.
"We wanted to get the ball inside tonight and then play off of that," said Piehl. "When we can get the inside going, it opens up the perimeter. Their top couple of guys began to foul out and then it opened up the inside even more."
"The first time that we played them Brad got into a little foul trouble and our main focus tonight was to feed the ball into the post," said New Knoxville's Tony Meyer, the Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year. "We kept feeding him and he did a good job of finishing off the plays."
Piehl's performance was appreciated by Hegemier.
"Brad is a pretty good player and he made some nice moves, got to the free-throw line and did a tremendous job for us tonight," said Hegemier. "He's really been a force for us in big games."
Joining Piehl in double figures for New Knoxville were Meyer and Austin Arnett with 12 points apiece.
Facing Houston in the regional semifinals on Tuesday will be a familiar opponent for Hegemier, who coached against the Wildcats on several occasions when he coached at Fort Loramie in the Shelby County Athletic League.
"I've coached a lot of years against John Willoughby (Houston head coach), we've yelled a lot at each other," said Hegemier. "I know him and he knows me, so that's how it's going to be."
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