Thursday, December 31st, 2009
By Gary R. Rasberry
Cavaliers slip past Indians by one
COLDWATER - Like the old saying goes, the third time's the charm.
After finishing runner-up behind Fort Recovery in the first two Mercer Health Holiday Classics on its home floor, Coldwater finally brought home the gold, holding off the Indians 40-39.
The Cavaliers are now 3-0 on the young season while the loss was the first of the season for the Indians.
The game was truly defensive after the teams scored in the high 50s in Tuesday's semifinals.
The main key for the Cavaliers was to find a way to slow down Fort Recovery senior Greg Kahlig, who lit up the scoreboard with 38 in the win over Fort Loramie on Tuesday and has had 80 points in his last two games as he edges closer to the Fort's all-time scoring record.
Using Luke Grieshop and Reese Klenke in a rotation, the Cavaliers put a lot of pressure on Kahlig and the end result was a 5-for-15 shooting night and a game-high 19 points.
"That was our goal," said Coldwater coach Mike Kanney of slowing down Kahlig. "You know he's going to get his (points), just make it as tough as possible for him to make shots. I thought they're a very good offensive rebounding team, so we tried to limit their second shots. I thought we did a better job of that as the game wore on."
"Every time we play Coldwater, and every time we play in this championship game, that's always the scenario," said Indians coach Brian Patch about the defense. "No matter what you do prior to the game, you know it's going to be a battle. It's not going to be pretty. You know it's not going to be a high-scoring affair (the combined margin of victory in the first two finals matchups was eight points and no team has scored more than 51 points). That's how it's going to be."
As has been the case the last two meetings in the finals, the game was close throughout. The teams traded the lead five times in the first quarter and twice more in the second.
It appeared that Fort Recovery was close to getting a good cushion at the end of the first half, up 22-16 and having the chance to go up eight, but Craig Tobe missed a pair of free throws, allowing the Cavaliers to get an Eric Lefeld jumper at the buzzer to make it 22-18 at halftime.
"The key part of the game is we had a 4-6 point lead at half and missed two free throws," said Patch. "We turned it over trying to take some time off the possession. They turn around and hit a 15-foot fadeaway at halftime. You add that up, it's a six-point swing. That was big going into the half for us."
The Indians tried to get another cushion in the third as Cody Fiely hit a pair of three-pointers that helped Fort Recovery get out 28-21 with three minutes left in the quarter, but the Cavaliers cut the deficit to 30-28 going into the final eight minutes.
Grieshop tied things up at 30-30 with free throws 30 seconds into the fourth quarter. After both teams missed opportunities to score over the next three minutes, Lefeld got another bunny to drop with 41/2 minutes to go to put the Cavaliers into the lead. Fort Recovery missed its next scoring chance and Lefeld scored again to make it a four-point game.
Keith Wenning made it a six-point game with 2:40 to go with free throws, but Tobe quickly cut the lead in half with a three-pointer with just under two minutes to play.
Coldwater began to go to the line with regularity in the final 78 seconds of play, and after two trips, the Cavaliers picked up two points to make it 39-33. After Wenning missed a pair of free throws with 42.8 seconds left, Kahlig drove and kicked the ball to Tobe, who sank the trey to make it 38-36.
On the ensuing inbounds, Wenning could not reach the high lob as Michael Gaerke recovered for the Indians, but after a timeout, the Indians lost the ball as Adam Rammel recovered and passed to Wenning, who was fouled with 15.6 seconds left. Wenning made the first but missed the second to keep it a one-possession game.
Kahlig tried the three-pointer, but the shot was all air. Rammel rebounded and passed to Wenning, who was fouled again. This time, Wenning missed the first, but got the second to fall to make it four points. Kahlig hit a three at the buzzer but the Indians still fell by one point.
"Fort Recovery's got a very good basketball team," said Kanney. "Those kids did a nice job. Fortunately, we were able to make some shots down the stretch, make some free throws to win the ballgame."
"We had too many careless and poor choices on the offensive end," said Patch. "They (the Fort Recovery statisticians) had us down for 16 turnovers, it might be more than that. It felt like a lot more turnovers than that."
Lefeld finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Cavaliers. Grieshop added nine points to go along with the solid defensive game.
Fiely added 11 points for the Indians before fouling out with 2:40 to go. Tobe finished with nine.
Coldwater is back in action on Saturday, hosting Elida at The Palace. Fort Recovery returns to action Jan. 8, hosting Versailles in a Midwest Athletic Conference contest.
All-Tourney Team: Kahlig (57 points, 22 rebounds in the tournament) and Lefeld (35 points, 25 rebounds) shared the Most Valuable Player award. Kahlig won the MVP award outright the first two Classics.
Joining Kahlig and Lefeld on the all-tournament team were Tim Brunet of Coldwater (17 points), Tobe (20 points) and Delphos Jefferson's Logan Bonifas (35 points).
Consolation Game: Ryan Ebbeskotte's free throws with 11.3 seconds left in the game allowed Delphos Jefferson to take the third-place game over Fort Loramie 49-47 in Wednesday night's first game.
The Jeff-Cats (6-2) trailed 17-7 after the first quarter, but outscored the Redskins (3-3) 42-30 over the final three quarters, including 12-5 in the fourth quarter to get the win.
Bonifas led Jefferson with 19 points with Ebbeskotte scoring 16.
Justin Hoying had 10 points for the Redskins. Findlay-bound Mark Frilling added eight points.
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