CINCINNATI – And grind it out they did.
The high-flying, run and gun Wilmington High School boys basketball team is headed to the regional final Saturday night after using Moeller’s hold-the-ball strategy.
The Hurricane (26-1) defeated the Crusaders 40-37 Wednesday night in a Div. I Cincinnati Regional semifinal game at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
“They do that (hold the ball) to a lot of people so we had to get back at them,” said Jarron Cumberland, leader of the Hurricane offensive attack. “I told my teammates to slow it down. We were up 1 with two minutes to go. We didn’t need to rush.”
The win puts the Hurricane in Saturday’s regional championship game against Centerville, who defeated Lakota East in the other semifinal game Wednesday. Tip time for the regional title game has not been set, according to Scott Kaufmann, president of the Southwest District Athletic Board.
Wilmington grabbed a 36-35 lead on Dylan Beaugard’s second three-pointer of the night. From there, Wilmington played Moeller basketball, a slow-the-pace, grind-it-out style used by the Crusaders to defeat the Hurricane 40-31 in the regular season.
“We just wanted to pull the ball out but they weren’t really coming out and pressuring us,” WHS head coach Michael Noszka said. “Then you turn around and there was less than two minutes left in the game.”
The regional championship game appearance puts Wilmington in the final eight in the state for the first time since the 1926-27 season.
“We finally finished,” Cameron Stewart said after the game. “Last time we played (Moeller), we were in it with three minutes to go, we just didn’t finish.
“(Tonight) we didn’t turn the ball over, we made shots and got stops. That was the biggest part, getting stops.”
Jeffrey Mansfield was a clear-cut spark for Wilmington in the opening quarter. He came off the bench and had a couple of steals and a hustle play to grab an offensive rebound.
He then found Stewart under the basket for an easy lay-in to give WHS its first lead, 6-5, of the game.
However, he went to the bench with two fouls inside the final minute of the first quarter.
Moeller led the majority of the first half. After a scorless first quarter, Cumberland began heating up early in the second. A three at 5:35 then a basket made it 17-15 Moeller.
But Cumberland was tagged with his second foul at 3:28 on a steal attempt, that brought WHS faithful out of their seats. He remained in the game, though. Then driving baseline, Cumberland hit a wide open Cameron Stewart who drained a three to keep WHS with one at 19-18.
“I was just standing at the beginning of the game,” I wasn’t moving when my teammates were screening for me. I was tiring myself out a little bit. I started to move more after the first quarter.”
Stewart took his turn on the defensive end by forcing a five-second call.
Wilmington held the ball the final 66 seconds of the half but failed to score. However, it did get a response from the Moeller fans who were not happy with the strategy.
Cumberland continued his hot-shooting early in the third. He hit a left-wing three with Trey McBride right in his face, then countered with a step-back three at 6:48 to put WHS up 26-21.
Dylan Beaugard got in on the act with a three at 4:32 to make it 29-25 Wilmington.
But the Hurricane would not score again in the third. Moeller got a buzzer beat by Isaiah Payton to go up 32-29 after three.
Late in the period, WHS and its fans began looking at the officiating as going against them, questioning several calls.
Beaugard again hit from beyond the arc to put WHS back up 36-35, moments after Keegan McDowell drained a three for the Crusaders.
From there, Wilmington took a page out of the Moeller playbook by holding the ball over most of the final three minutes of the fourth quarter. The strategy worked.
“It kind of played out the way we thought,” said Carl Kremer. “I give them credit for being patient. (Wilmington) has been through the wars. They weren’t going to do something silly.”
WHS led 36-35 when Moeller fouls reached seven and the free throw shooting contest began. Cumberland buried two with 42.7 seconds to go, to make it 38-35 and then a length of the floor play – Cumberland to Miller to Chris Wolary for two – gave the Hurricane its regional semifinal victory.
March 9, 2016
@Xavier’s Cintas Center
Wilmington 40 Moeller 37
(40) WILMINGTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Miller 0-0-0-0 Wolary 1-0-0-2 Stewart 2-1-0-5 Beaugard 2-2-3-9 Cumberland 6-3-7-22 Morris 0-0-0-0 Mansfield 0-0-2-2. TOTALS 11-6-12-40
(37) MOELLER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Voss 3-0-1-7 McCracken 3-0-0-6 McDowell 3-2-0-8 Payton 4-2-2-12 T. McBride 2-0-0-4 Wead 0-0-0-0 Canter 0-0-0-0 M. McBride 0-0-0-0.
FIELD GOALS: W 11-28 (Cumberland 6-10 Beaugard 2-5); M 15-30 (Payton 4-7 McDowell 3-3 Voss 3-5)
3 PT FIELD GOALS: W 6-14 (Cumberland 3-4 Beaugard 2-4); M 4-9 (McDowell 2-2 Payton 2-3)
FREE THROWS: W 12-15 (Cumberland 7-8 Mansfield 2-2); M 3-6
REBOUNDS: W-18 (CUmberland 7 Wolary 3 Miller 2 Stewart 2 Beaugard 1 Mansfield 1); M-17 (T. McBride 5 Voss 4 Payton 3)
ASSISTS: W-8 (Stewart 3 Cumberland 2 Miller 1 Beaugard 1 Mansfield 1); M-10 (Voss 3 T. McBride 3)
STEALS: W-6 (Mansfield 2 Stewart 2 Beaugard 1 Cumberland 1); M-2
BLOCKED SHOTS: W-2 (Cumberland 2); M-2
TURNOVERS: W-6 M-8
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports.