Hayes, Orange to square off in regional final


Thanks to a dominant defensive effort, lopsided rebounding advantage and plenty of balance on the offensive end, the Delaware Hayes boys basketball team is still dancing.

The Pacers got a team-high 17 points from Jake Lowman, 15 more from Jesse Burris and 11 from Carter Piatt-Brown, and the defense wasn’t bad, either, en route to a convincing 56-40 Division I regional semifinal win over Hilliard Bradley Wednesday night at Ohio Dominican University’s Alumni Hall.

Hayes (26-1), which led 28-22 at halftime, only added to its edge in the second half. It gave Bradley (21-6) next to nothing on the offensive end — Cade Norris had more than half of the Jaguars’ points with 22 — and routinely turned defense into offense.

Pacer coach Adam Vincenzo, who saw his team score 90 points in the district final against Walnut Ridge, knew the regional semi would have a different feel.

“They’re so disciplined defensively, we knew we had to make some shots, but what we were trying to do was space them out to try to get them to come up and guard us and open up some driving lanes,” he said. “It’s hard to do what you want to do against them … they take away your tendencies, but in games like this, we’ve got guys who want to go make plays.”

One of those guys was Lowman, who had his way with whoever was guarding him at any given moment in the game.

After Bradley missed a couple three-pointers to start the third, Lowman scored inside to balloon the lead to eight.

Ben Mirgon hit a three to give the Jags some life, but Burris and Lowman answered with back-to-back hoops — Burris’ a three and Lowman’s a driving layup — to extend the lead to double digits, 35-25, with 4:40 left in the third.

The duo continued to go to work, too. Burris scored on a long inbound pass from Lowman early in the fourth, then hit a three to all but seal the deal, making it a 50-35 game with 5:44 left.

“All the pressure is on Jesse and Landon (Vanderwarker), so I have to take some of the pressure off them … that’s my job,” Lowman said. “We knew going in we had a size advantage, so when I had a mismatch I tried to get the ball and, if they double-teamed I’d kick, if not I’d score.”

While Lowman and company were scoring, Hayes was giving up next to nothing on the defensive end. Vanderwarker, who only had four points, seemingly challenged every shot Bradley put up in the paint. He was tough on the boards, too, as the Pacers finished with a 35-20 rebounding edge.

“Defensively, we were locked in,” Vincenzo said. “We knew it was going to be an absolute slugfest, and we preach all the time … you have to dance to different tunes. When we’re going fast, we love it, but we also can grind it out … the elite teams can do either, and to grind one out like this is huge.”

The win, the Pacers’ 20th straight, earned them a shot at their first regional title in school history. To get it, they’ll have to beat Olentangy Orange Saturday at 7 p.m.

Olentangy Orange 50, Newark 42

The top-seeded Olentangy Orange boys basketball team scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter and held fourth-seeded Newark without a basket for more than 11 minutes in the second half on the way to a Division I regional semifinal win Wednesday night at Ohio Dominican University’s Alumni Hall.

Down a point in the final seconds of the third quarter, Keegan Knupp cleaned up a miss and scored a putback bucket to give the Pioneers (26-1) a one-point lead heading to the fourth — a lead they only added to as the game wore on.

Levi Davis got Orange going with a dunk off a steal in the first minute of the fourth, giving his team a 36-33 lead with 7:04 left.

Newark’s Steele Meister, who the Pioneers held to just five points — all in the first quarter — tried to answer with a three, but came up short.

Just seconds later, Davis finished off a hard drive with a tough layup in traffic to make it 38-33 with 5:56 left.

“We had a lot of talks about how we had to pick it up, and one play can shift the momentum,” Davis said. “Of course, I feel like the dunk really shifted the momentum. Our three-ball wasn’t falling so, really, we just found a way to win … and attacking the bucket was our way to win.”

Devin Brown picked up a block on the Wildcats’ (22-5) ensuing offensive trip and, after another Newark missed three, Knupp scored inside off a nice find from Davis.

Two possessions later, a Knupp dunk off a steal all but sealed the deal, ballooning the lead to 44-33 with just under three minutes left.

The Pioneers were disciplined, especially down the stretch … something the Wildcats are known for.

“They are so disciplined and so tough,” Orange coach Anthony Calo said of the Wildcats. “They pride themselves on toughness, but I think we have a really tough program too, and I think we’re building something special.

“We believe our kids are tough … we believe our kids are gritty … and we’ve shown it back-to-back years now, playing in back-to-back regional finals.”

Knupp led the Pioneers with 14 points while Brown and Davis finished with 12 apiece. Treyton Schroeder was also solid, finishing with nine points in the win.

Braylon Morris had a game-high 21 points for Newark.

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