Norton, OH- The Richmond Heights Spartans (25-0), arguably the best Division IV team in the Ohio faced the Mogadore Wildcats (20-5) in the Region 13 district final Friday night. Led by junior Dorian Jones and sophomore sharpshooter Demarris Winters, this young team put head coach Russ Swartz's team made of mainly juniors in panic mode early.
Junior guard Hosea Steele opened the game up with a near half court pass to Jones for a alley-oop that woke the Spartan crowd. Fellow junior Jeremy Wilson followed with a midrange jumper to put Richmond out to a early 4-0 lead. Winters would soon after hit a contested triple to cap out the 7-0 run before any Wildcat would score. Junior Layne Miller and Senior guard Nick Coffman stopped the bleeding with a free throw and layup to get the team on the scoreboard. Winters put on a scoring clinic, dropping 14 of the Spartans 20 first quarter points, giving the team a comfortable lead.
Mogadore would soon fight back, as early in the second Coach Swartz was hit with a technical foul for conduct towards the officials. Tempers would soon fly of the wall a little between Coffman and Winters, as both battled for the basketball after stoppage in play. The technical foul seemed to have sparked the Wildcats as Corey Lehner knocked down an instant triple to hype the Mogadore faithful who traveled the short trip to Norton High School. Mogadore would go on a 11-4 run after the technical foul, but couldn't overcome the hot shooting from Winters, who ended the first half with 20 points. The Spartans carried a 36-20 lead into the half.
Richmond started the second half with a tip dunk from Jones off a Winters miss. The team jumped out to a lead as large as 20 before the found themselves a little complacent as the third went on, going away from attacking the basket to more of a team who settled for shot attempts behind the arc.
"We did nothing that I drew on the whiteboard before the game." said coach Rogers post game. "There's a lot of things we need to clean up and I told them after the game."
This allowed the Wildcats a chance to come back to hopefully knock off the #1 team in Northeast Ohio. Coffman and teammate, junior guard Lucas Butler knocked in back-to-back triples to cut the large deficit to 15. Miller would then go coast to coast in 3 seconds to heave up a buzzer beating triple, catching themselves down 52-40 going into the win or go home quarter.
Mogadore opened the quarter with a layup from Lehner, making things extremely interesting for the #5 team in the district. Dorian Jones, who up to this point, wasn't having his strongest game, yet found ways to insert himself when needed most. Both teams would go on to struggle briefly offensively until Jones muscled him inside for a strong layup to push to Spartans back up 12. He then followed with a steal and thunderous one-handed dunk off a bad inbound pass from Mogadore. Richmond knocked off the complacency and went back to work on both defense and offense, outscoring them 14-8 to secure to victory and advancement in the playoffs.
Winters lead both squads with 32 points. Jones finished with 14 points. Leading Mogadore was Butler with 13 points.
"We started off fast, got a little slow in between and finished the game strong for the dub" said Steele post game when asked about the overall game pay of the team. "It comes from defense and hard work and I know we'll need it with a tough Cornerstone team waiting for us."
Indeed, Richmond will have to play better as they will face a sharpshooter in Quinn "Turtle" Kwasniak and senior big man DJ Niles Tuesday at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse. Game starts at 8pm.