By Michael Rich
Groveport-Madison used an 11-3 run in the last four minutes and 10 seconds of the third quarter to create some distance and cruise to a 50-34 win over host Olentangy Orange in the second round of the Division I Central District boys basketball tournament Tuesday night in Lewis Center.
“It’s disappointing,” Pioneers coach Anthony Calo said. “I told the kids that I’m not disappointed in them, I’m very proud of them. Obviously, we would have liked to end differently after the special year that we had.”
Tyus Ferguson led the Cruisers (12-11) with 14 points and had five rebounds and four assists. Conner Seipel added 10 points and 9 rebounds.
“I thought Seipel was exceptional on the glass,” Calo said.
Groveport, the 17 seed, outrebounded the Pioneers (18-5) 29-17. Tre Charles-Martin had five rebounds to go with seven points off the bench.
“They did a real great job on the glass,” Calo said. “They got second-chance opportunities.”
Ferguson hooked up with Seipel underneath with 4:10 left in the third quarter to start a string of 11 of the next 14 points for Groveport to close out the third with a 35-23 lead.
“It was funny, we wanted to force them into jump shots — tough shots on the perimeter — and they forced us into (tough shots),” Calo said.
Colin Shepherd drove and scored and Adam Rieger stole an inbound pass and fed Grant Gossard for a layup to cut the deficit to 41-30 with 5:34 remaining, but that’s as close as it would get.
Gossard landed awkwardly on a rebound attempt in the fourth quarter and hurt his ankle.
“He got hurt — he was playing on a bad ankle,” Calo said. “But, give him credit, he was fighting through that ankle injury … he’s a senior and it means a lot to him. So, he wanted stick on the floor and fight it out.”
Points were hard to come by in the first half. It took two minutes and 22 seconds for the first basket, a put-back by Seipel. Ferguson found him underneath to go up 4-0 with four minutes remaining in the first.
Gossard found Nathan Matthews with 2:22 left in the period to finally get Orange on the board. Gossard beat the first-quarter buzzer with a basket to give the Pioneers a 6-4 lead.
“We struggled with their length,” Calo said. “They did a good job of packing it in and protecting the rim.”
The Cruisers scored eight of the first 10 points of the second period to claim a 12-8 advantage with 1:45 left in the half.
“We shot 50 percent from the field as a team for the season and certainly we can shoot the three,” Calo said. “But, we had that percentage because we got good shots all year and they forced us into taking longer shots from the perimeter … give them credit for that.”
Evan Lewis had a put-back and Shepherd scored to beat the halftime horn, which cut the deficit to 14-12 at the break.
“We played good (defense) in the first half, too,” Calo said. “I thought our zone really made them struggle big time. If it wasn’t for offensive rebounds, we could have held them under 10 in the first half.”
Shepherd led the Pioneers with a game-high 15 points. Gossard dished out five assists. Gossard, Lewis and Matthews each led with three rebounds.
“(Shepherd) is gritty, he’s tough — he’s our fearless leader,” Calo said. “He’s just a competitor through and through and I’m super grateful for Colin … we will miss his motor and his heart, no doubt.”
Orange, the 14-seed, set a school record with 18 wins this season, two years removed from a 3-20 campaign.
The Pioneers lose five seniors — Rieger, Shepherd, Lewis, Gossard and Josh Smith looking ahead to next season.
“They’ve overcome a lot and I’m very proud of them,” Calo said. “We’ve spent a lot of time together these last four years.”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.