Pacers win regional title


The second-seeded Delaware Hayes boys basketball team used a third-quarter surge to flip the script, turning a halftime deficit into a third-quarter lead it ran away and hid with en route to a 74-56 Division I regional final win over top-seeded Olentangy Orange Saturday night at Ohio Dominican University’s Alumni Hall.

After watching the Pioneers (26-2) use a 22-13 second quarter to secure their halftime edge — a span in which Devin Brown took over with 12 points — the Pacers (27-1) went on an 11-0 run to start the third and, well, never trailed again.

“They were elite in the second quarter,” Hayes coach Adam Vincenzo said of the Pioneers. “They missed two shots and they were both threes, everything else was in the paint. So, we were like, alright, it’s time to go to our zone and see if it can just change the pace … and man did it change the pace.

“That was a big difference for us. We kept them out of the paint, made them shoot jump shots and our guys bought in.”

While Orange was struggling to make much happen on the offensive end, Hayes was just starting to get going.

Landon Vanderwarker, who was on the bench in foul trouble for most of the second quarter, opened the third with a driving layup. After a stop at the other end, Jesse Burris was fouled driving to the hoop. He then hit both of the ensuing free throws and, after another stop, Jake Lowman hit a pair of free throws after a strong drive of his own to give Hayes a 41-39 edge three minutes into the second half.

Lowman hit a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, ballooning the lead to 44-39, before Vanderwarker scored again to cap the run.

“We knocked down shots, we got stops and we went on a big run to start off (the second half),” Burris said. “That gave us momentum and we never looked back.”

Orange got back-to-back layups from Levi Davis at the end of the quarter, making it a 56-50 game after three, but Hayes started the fourth with another huge run, this time 14-0 to all but seal the deal.

Well before the season started, before any of the 27 wins, the OCC championship, district title and now regional championship, the Pacers participated in a summer camp at UD Arena — the site of this year’s state Final Four.

They talked about how much they wanted to get back there then. They talked about it down four at halftime of the regional final, too.

“We played in a summer camp at UD and our coach said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna be here right?’,” Burris said. “We all said, ‘Yeah’ … we just gotta go out and take care of business in the second half to get there.

“We knew we had to take care of business every possession.”

For Orange, it was a frustrating finish to a phenominal season of its own.

“I thought we got solid shots — sometimes you hit them, sometimes you don’t — and we got a little cold,” Orange coach Anthony Calo said. “It’s loud out there so live adjustments are tough, but we got cold and they got hot as a pistol … they were on fire. It was kinda like the perfect storm … we weren’t shooting well, we were in foul trouble, they got hot, ya know. … it was a perfect storm.”

Jeremiah Russell hit a three one minute into the fourth, making it a 61-50 game, and Vanderwarker scored back-to-back buckets before Lowman buried a three of his own to swell the spread to 68-50 and force an Orange timeout with 4:44 left.

The Pacers never let the Pioneers get any closer than that.

Burris led a balanced attack with 17 points while Vanderwarker finished with 16, Russell had 14, Lowman finished with 12, Chase Griggs chipped in eight and Carter Piatt-Brown had seven.

Brown led Orange with 21 points while Dylan Joy had 11 and Davis and Knupp finished with 10 points apiece.

“It’s special,” Vincenzo said. “It ain’t about me, but I’ve been going to the state tournament every year since I was in the fourth grade … St. John Arena was my first one. It woulda been awesome to make it as a player … that didn’t work out, but I knew I was going to be a coach some day and I wanted to take a team.

“To experience something like that, with a group of guys like this, honestly, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’re going to celebrate this tonight, there’s no doubt about it, but we’ll get back to work tomorrow. We got a week to prep for St. Ignatius, a really good team, but I like us. Let’s go let it rip and have some fun in Dayton.”

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