Balanced Pacers headed back to district final


Clinging to a two-point lead at the break, the Delaware Hayes boys basketball team knew it needed to handle things a bit differently in the second half of Wednesday’s Division I district semifinal against Westerville South than it did in the first.

For starters, the second-seeded Pacers needed to slow down the D-I Central District Player of the Year, Kruz McClure, who scored 23 of the 16th-seeded Wildcats’ 27 first-half points.

They also needed to get everybody involved.

Fortunately for Hayes (24-1), it managed to do both on the way to a 67-52 win.

Jake Lowman hit a three-pointer to open the third quarter — a period the Pacers won 23-13 — before Jeremiah Russell split a pair of free throws and scored inside to bump the lead to 37-30 less than three minutes in.

Hamza Bendahhou hit a three to keep South within striking distance, but Jesse Burris, Landon Vanderwarker and Lowman scored on consecutive trips down the floor to bump the lead back to seven, 45-38.

Another Vanderwarker hoop extended the lead even more before Carter Piatt-Brown hit a floater off the glass to make it 49-38 late in the third.

While the Pacers were scoring, McClure and the Wildcats weren’t … at least not at the same clip they were in the first half.

“We went to our matchup zone in the second half, so that was the big difference,” Hayes coach Adam Vincenzo said. “I mean, he (McClure) is a good player. I thought he made a lot of tough shots, too … it’s not like we weren’t guarding.

“So, we were holding on to that zone — I wanted to get it to halftime and come out with it as an adjustment — and, thankfully, it worked out well for us.”

The Pacers’ balance helped, too.

McClure finished with a game-best 32 points, but didn’t get a ton of help. Hayes, meanwhile, had four players finish in double figures and another close with nine.

“When we’re balanced, that’s when we’re at our best,” Vincenzo said. “We have some guys who’re capable of going out and getting some, but when we’re balanced, it’s pick your poison.

“We’re unselfish, and that’s what we talked about at halftime … just being us. Let’s get out and go, let’s push, let’s run, let’s be us. We did a good job of that … and we have some seniors who, obviously, are going to do whatever it takes to keep us rolling.”

Two of those seniors, Burris and Lowman, finished with 17 and 12 points, respectively. Vanderwarker chipped in 14 points, Piatt-Brown had 12 and Russell finished with nine.

With the win, Hayes secured its third trip to a district final in the last five years. It’ll play 22nd-seeded Walnut Ridge — a 69-46 winner over Grove City — for a district championship Saturday at Ohio Dominican’s Alumni Hall. Tip is slated for 5 p.m.

Hilliard Bradley 57, Olentangy Liberty 37

The Patriots were getting big-time contributions on both ends of the floor, the Jaguars’ All-Ohio guard Cade Norris picked up his third foul on a charge and, with 3:32 left in the third quarter, Wednesday’s Division I district semifinal at Central Crossing was a one-point game.

Bradley, though, dominated the rest of the way, using a 20-0 run to blow things open.

Ben Mirgon found Andrew Lamb for three hoops during the stretch. Overall, Norris finished with a game-high 19 points, Lamb closed with 12 and Mirgon and Jeb Bischoff had eight points apiece.

Bradley (20-5) held Liberty (14-10) to just one field goal — a Toby Gage three-pointer — over the final 11-plus minutes of the game.

Up until that, though, the Patriots were right there.

Down 14-6 after a quarter, Liberty got five points from Nick Butterfield, four from Christian Moulton, and three apiece from Addison Bailey, Parker Van Engelenhoven and Tyler Kropp as part of an 18-14 second it used to get back into things.

Kropp led the way with 10 points while JR Hocutt and Bailey had six each.

Olentangy Orange 67, South 53

The top-seeded Pioneers used their depth to cruise past the ninth-seeded Bulldogs, getting six-plus points from eight different players en route to a Division I district semifinal win Wednesday night at Central Crossing.

Orange’s (24-1) defense wasn’t bad, either, limiting South (17-6) to just 18 first-half points.

The Pioneers led by 21 points at halftime and never looked back.

Devin Brown poured in 13 points to led the way while Levi Davis was right behind him with 12.

LaJames Washington led South with 16 points while Chris Stokes had 15 in the setback.

Next up, Orange will face eighth-seeded Reynoldsburg in search of its second straight district title. Tip is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at Alumni Hall.

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