Potters fight hard, but fall short
BYESVILLE — Tuesday’s OVAC Class 4A semifinal game played out like “The Tortoise and the Hare” …and we all know how that fable goes.
Visiting East Liverpool came out of the starting blocks like the rapid rabbit, racing to a 10-point lead 2 1/2 minutes into the second quarter, but No. 1 seed Meadowbrook brought it home like the turtle in a marathon and captured a 60-42 victory in the OVAC Class 4A semifinals.
With its 15th win in 19 games, Meadowbrook earned the opportunity to go for a rare OVAC “fourpeat,” with Coach Lou “Scooter” Tolzda’s Colts facing No. 3 seed St. Clairsville in the championship game.
“It’s exciting,” said Tolzda. “Teams don’t get to do it (play in finals) four years in a row, and we’re going to need a big crowd there to get it done because the whole town of St. Clairsville will be there.
“We’re thankful to be there (in the finals) because a couple of weeks ago, we didn’t even know if we’d get in (the playoffs).”
Behind five points from Brennan O’Hara and four each from Timmy Neal and James Maxwell, East Liverpool proved the early aggressor and managed a 13-7 lead, with the Colts hitting just 3-of-10 shots and turning the ball over five times in the opening quarter.
Two hoops by Neal and one by Tyler Roe helped push the Potters’ lead to 19-9 at the 5:46 mark of the second period, but momentum quickly took a turn in the Colts’ favor.
Meadowbrook erupted with a 16-1 surge behind six points from senior Davis Black to go in front, 25-19, with 1:05 left in the half.
A triple by Roe and two free throws by Gabe Roach pulled the Potters even at 25-all, but another Davis Black goal gave the hosts a 27-25 lead at the intermission.
It was all Meadowbrook in the third period as East Liverpool managed just four points while turning the ball over eight times, with the Colts using a 13-4 edge to build a 40-29 advantage heading to the final frame.
The Potters had the lead down to six at 42-36 at the five-minute mark, but the Colts posted an 18-6 edge down the stretch to finish it off.
“I don’t know if we though we were just doing to walk out there and win or what,” said Meadowbrook’s Tolzda. “The took it to us and had the momentum and excitement early and controlled the tempo. We weren’t doing a good job of attacking their zone and it just kept compounding for us.
“We started getting some better shots and once we got the lead, we relaxed a little,” he continued. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy because they’ve won 15 games. They’re averaging around 75 points a game, so we did pretty well defensively to hold them to 42.”
For East Liverpool coach Nate Conley, it was a case of not being able to sustain the fast start, particularly with starting point guard Tre Jackson sidelined due to an ankle injury suffered in Monday’s practice.
“I though we played a great first half and we missed some opportunities,” Conley said. “We got called for three charges and missed some lay-ups or we could have been up even more.
“It really snowballed from there,” he said, “and you could tell in the second half we were playing without our three-year starting point guard (Jackson) because he’s usually the one who calms us down.
“We controlled everything we wanted to in the first half,” added Conley, “but the second half it was all Meadowbrook, so hats off to them. We got a lot of easy buckets in the first half, but their transition defense changed and we didn’t get many in the second half.”
Davis Black led the Colts with 16 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Junior Addy Black had a solid effort with 12 points and six caroms; junior Johnathan McCall contributed 10 counters and four boards; and senior Peyton Neff added six points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals.
For East Liverpool (15-5), Roe collected 15 points and five rebounds, Neal 11 points, Maxwell nine points and Roach had six reboundsds.
Meadowbrook was 25-of-50 from the field and 8-of-9 at the free throw line while East Liverpool hit 17-of-36 floor shots and 5-of-9 at the stripe. The Colts led off the glass, 28-20, and had 15 turnovers to 19 for the Potters.
Meadowbrook plays St. Clairsville — a 79-67 winner over No. 2 seed Oak Glen in the other semifinal for the 4A championship at noon Saturday.
E. LIVERPOOl: 13-12- 4-13–42
EAST LIVERPOOL SCORING: Tyler Roe 6-12 1-1 15, Brennan O’Hara 2-3 0-0 5, Timmy Neal 5-9 1-4 11, Gabe Roach 0-5 2-2 2, Levi George 0-0 0-0 0, Payton Reed 0-0 0-0 0, Sabaan Razi 0-0 0-0, James Maxwell 4-7 1-2 9, Cam Beverly 0-0 0-0 0. TEAM TOTALS: 17-36, 5-9: 42.
MEADOWBROOK SCORING: Johnathan McCall 4-12 2-2 10, Dylan Webster 2-4 0-0 4, Peyton Neff 3-10 0-0 6, Davis Black 6-10 4-5 16, Addy Black 5-6 2-2 12, Logan Fox 1-1 0-0 2, Zach Rusnak 3-7 0-0 8, Boston Black 1-1 0-0 2, Elijah Chandler 0-0 0-2 0, Davis Singleton 0-0 0-0 0. TEAM TOTALS: 25-50, 8-9: 60.
Three-point goals: Est Liverpool 3-8 (Roe 2, O’Hara), Meadowbrook 2-13 (Rusnak 2).