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Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Indians and Rangers capture sectional crowns

By Randy Bruns

Fort Recovery players celebrate their two-point win over New Bremen on a buzzer-. . .

COLDWATER - Friday night's Division IV sectional final doubleheader featured a pair of games that that were completely different but extremely entertaining nonetheless.
In the opener, the New Knoxville Rangers opened up a huge third-quarter lead over the Perry Commodores but fell into a funk thereafter. The Commodores made a valiant comeback effort but the Rangers held firm in the end to come away with a 56-41 victory.
The nightcap was simply some good old fashioned Friday night Midwest Athletic Conference basketball. The New Bremen Cardinals battled back to take a lead in the final seconds but Toby Metzger's long three-pointer at the buzzer gave the Fort Recovery Indians a thrilling 46-44 triumph.
Just like they did last year, New Knoxville and Fort Recovery will advance to the Wapakoneta district semifinals on Tuesday. The Rangers, now 21-0 on the year, will take on Temple Christian in the first game while the Indians, 14-7, will do battle with Ada in the nightcap.
Perry ends its season with a 13-9 record while New Bremen bows out at 14-8.
New Knoxville 56, Perry 41
The Rangers came in carrying the top spot in the final state basketball poll, and in the early going it was easy to see why. After spotting the Commodores four early points, the Rangers went on a 10-0 run and led 13-7 after one quarter. A 12-2 spurt at the tail end of the second period built the Rangers' advantage to 31-12 at halftime, and things got even worse early in the third.
The Rangers scored almost at will in the opening minutes of the second half and built their largest lead of the game at 45-18 with three minutes left in the third.
At that point, things went a little haywire for the state's best small-school squad.
Everything started falling for the Commodores and nothing went right for the Rangers, as the underdogs started to put together a run. The start of the fourth quarter was when the Commodores really started clicking, as they scored 11 unanswered points to force a timeout by the Rangers. After the brief break Davian Williams hit from the baseline to cap a 17-1 run by the Commodores that brought them within 11 points with just under four minutes remaining.
Perry later pulled within 10 with three minutes left, but New Knoxville hit some free throws and took advantage of fastbreak opportunities to seal the win.
Though Perry ended up losing by 15, it was the way they came back that will stick with coach Matt Tabler.
"I give our kids a lot of credit, especially the seniors," said Tabler. "I just asked them to go out on top even if they didn't win, and these guys have always given me the effort. We knew (New Knoxville) was a heckuva basketball team and we knew we were overmatched, but the one thing I'll say is that our kids have a lot of heart."
For his part, New Knoxville coach Dan Hegemier could only tip his hat to Perry for taking it to his Rangers in the second half.
"I commend Perry because I thought they had a good game plan and they played hard," said Hegemier. "They never quit and the just kept coming. We had a nice lead but they kept penetrating and we didn't stop them. They just played harder than we did in the fourth quarter. Sometimes the first game in the tournament is a little ugly and it was ugly for us tonight but we'll take the win."
New Knoxville's Austin Arnett led all scorers with 18 points and Brad Piehl chipped in with 16 for the winners. Williams led the Commodores with 11 markers.
Fort Recovery 46, New Bremen 44
Just one week ago these two hooked up in the regular-season finale and the Cardinals took home a two-point victory, but the Indians proved that come tourney time, turnabout is fair play.
After a ho-hum first half, the Cardinals and Indians cranked up the action in the second half that led to a perfect climax - at least for half the fans in the gym.
The Cardinals had trailed for most of the game but finally pulled in front by four after Justin Eilerman scored five straight points with four minutes left on the clock. Both defenses stiffened thereafter, but the Indians managed to forge back in front by getting to the free throw line. Brent Faller drilled a pair from the charity stripe to give his team a 43-42 lead with 37 ticks remaining, but the Cardinals had one last chance.
After patiently waiting for the perfect opportunity the Cardinals went down low to Eilerman, who hit a turnaround jumper for his 10th point of the quarter. Now faced with a one-point deficit and time winding down, the Indians got the ball over the halfcourt line and called a timeout with 4.1 seconds remaining on the clock.
With the Cardinals blanketing MAC Player of the Year Greg Kahlig, the Indians had to find another option. Faller took the inbounds pass and threw it to Craig Tobe, who passed to Metzger with time almost expired. The senior heaved up an off-balance 25-footer that drew nothing but net and sent the Indian faithful into hysterics.
Fort Recovery coach Brian Patch was still shaking his head while recalling the winning play after the game.
"Coach (Joe) Bruns drew up the play but it broke down in the very beginning with a guy not screening like he was supposed to," explained Patch. "Then it was kind of chaos from there. It seemed like with every pass we got further from the basket, but the thing is he was wide open."
According to Patch, Metzger's marksmanship was partly the result of some dubious practice habits.
"You're going to think I'm lying, but he practices those shots on a daily basis," said Patch with a laugh. "I'm always yelling at him that he's never going to shoot those shots in a game so the first thing he said to me tonight was 'see, they pay off'."
Though the final result was horrifying to watch, New Bremen coach Mike Ernst explained that his team did exactly what it needed to down the stretch.
"After they hit the free throws to go up by one I thought we executed perfectly," said Ernst. "We ran the clock down and got the shot we wanted to and Justin stuck it in. Unfortunately, I guess, we guarded them exactly how I wanted us to. We knew exactly where Kahlig was but the guy we decided to leave open hits a 25-footer to beat us. I can sleep better this way than if they had got the ball down inside to (Kahlig)."
Eilerman paced the Cardinals with 15 and Spencer Rohr contributed 14 in a losing effort, while Kahlig took home game-high honors with 18 points and Faller chipped in with 11.
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