An hour and five minutes after the Delaware Hayes boys basketball team’s season ended with a 57-49 loss at Dublin Scioto in the first round of the Division I tournament Saturday night, the locker room door finally swung open and coach Jordan Blackburn emerged.
The post-game postmortem was five minutes short of the hour and 10 minutes it took for the game to be played – halftime included.
So, what took so long?
Blackburn, his assistants and each and every player went around the room and talked about what out-going seniors Kameron Beekman, Will Yoakum, Sam Midura and Anthony Rodgers meant to the program.
“This is the closest group of kids I’ve ever had,” Blackburn said. “It’s going to be tough not to be at practice. That’s what we were talking about in there. All four seniors are special human beings.”
There are 199 Division I boys basketball programs in Ohio and 198 of them will end the season with a loss.
“That way everybody doesn’t leave on a sour note,” Blackburn said. “Now their uplifted again and they feel better.”
Delaware, seeded 16th, improved its record by two wins from last year despite another first-round loss in the tournament.
“For this group of kids to win 11 games playing five underclassmen a lot of minutes – it’s just a testament to the kind of kids that they are,” Blackburn said. “I know everybody would like for us to have 20-win seasons every year, and it’s fun for coaches, too.
“When you’re gauging the kids you have and how well they did — if you add up all the parts of this team, several wins this year — they won because they were together.”
The Pacers (11-12) struggled to find points in the first half, trailing 27-15 at the break after a Noah Brechbuhler step-back three at the buzzer.
“I thought the story of the game was (we went) 11-for-28 inside 8 feet,” Blackburn said. “If we could have made a few more shots inside 8 feet, it could have been a different ball game.”
Scioto opened the second with an 8-0 run to push the lead as high as 15. Addison Harvey finally ended the run with a three-pointer from the right corner with 3:32 left in the half.
Brechbuhler hit a three and Brandon Vertolli scored back-to-back baskets to push the Scioto lead to 36-20 in the third.
Yoakum made a pair of free throws and followed on the next possession with an assist on a Paul Burris buzzer-beating three-pointer, and Delaware trailed 41-30 through three.
Dimetri Brandon’s drive and score pushed the Scioto lead back to 15 early in the fourth, but Delaware responded with a 10-0 run to cut it to 47-42. Three-pointers by Tracey Sumner and Yoakum highlighted the run for the Pacers.
“I thought you saw the character of our team … 5:30 left, we’re down 13 and cut it to four with two minutes left,” Blackburn said. “They’re just fighters.”
Brechbuhler, Vertolli and Jones each scored baskets in a 6-0 spurt to push the Irish (15-8) lead to 11, but Terin Kinsway knocked down a three-pointer and followed with a steal and a layup on the next possession.
But it was too late.
Scioto’s Jacob Jones beat the first-quarter buzzer with a three-pointer to give the Irish a 15-8 lead.
“I don’t think we got off to a great start … we looked a little rusty,” Blackburn said.
Brechbuhler led Scioto with 16 points, Jackie Winchester had 14, Jones added 13 and Vertolli pitched in 11. The Irish hit six of 13 three-pointers.
“We were trying to pack it in the paint – last time we played them, they took 35 shots in the paint,” Blackburn said. “Traditionally, they’re not a very good three-point shooting team. So, we had to adjust.
“In man they got the ball in the paint and in zone they made shots. At some point you just say, ‘Good job.’”
Yoakum had a game-high 21 points and Kinsway added 13 points to lead Delaware.
Next, Scioto hosts 19th-seeded Mifflin in the second round Tuesday night at 7 p.m.