By Cody Leist
CHILLICOTHE — When its offense was sputtering Friday night, Minford made up for it on the defensive side until shots started to fall.
The No. 2 Falcons held No. 7 Unioto to 15-of-60 shooting and used a 1o-2 run in the fourth quarter to close out a 47-38 Division II Southeast Sectional Final at Chillicothe Southeastern’s Larry Jordan Gymnasium.
“We really focused on being patient on the outside and trying to get inside touches,” Minford coach Josh Shoemaker said. “(Jared) McCray had 11 points in the second half and our kids did a good job of being unselfish for finding the open man and not hurrying the three.”
Both teams struggled to find a rhythm offensively as they played to a 19-19 tie at the half. With the Shermans only converting 8-of-28 from the field and the Falcons making six of their 28 in the first 16 minutes of the contest, Shoemaker felt his club was going to turn things around.
“Our coaching staff preached all game that somebody has got to make a big play,” Shoemaker said.
Both teams nearly matched their first half score in the third quarter. However, Minford faced a 33-32 deficit entering the fourth. That’s when the Falcon defense tightened up the laces and allowed the offense to finally get on track.
Trey Kelley opened the stanza with a 3-pointer that gave Minford its third lead of the contest. While Trevor Detillion tied the game on the next possession, McCray and fellow Falcon senior Cody Stapleton ran off the next seven points that reclaimed the lead for good.
Held in check for most of the game, Nick Corcoran’s 3-pointer trimmed the Unioto deficit to 42-38, which turned out to be the final points of the contest for the Shermans as they were 2-of-16 from the floor and 1-of-9 from beyond the arc in the fourth.
“Defense won the game, we flat out guarded,” Shoemaker said. “Unioto is a great team, they score a ton of points. So for us to hold them to 38 points is a tremendous job for all of our kids.”
McCray led all scorers with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting while Brandon Rowe added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Despite the opening field goal being his only points of the contest, Kenton Gullion had eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
“I thought (Gullion) was our best all-around player the entire game,” Shoemaker said. “He really did a good job defending and he really helped us out rebounding. He bailed us out of a lot of situations.”
Stapleton, who finished with eight points, was also praised for his defensive efforts as he drew the assignment of Corcoran, who ended the night with 10 points.
“(Stapleton) is dog tired right now and he made Corcoran earn every one of his 10 points that he got,” Shoemaker said.
With their ticket to Athens punched, Shoemaker feels a solid week of practice is needed against either Logan Elm or Sheridan.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or on Twitter @CodyLeist.
Unioto 11 8 14 5 — 38
Minford 8 11 13 15 — 47
Unioto — Strange 1-0-2, Hosley 3-2-8, Overly 4-2-11, True 1-0-2, Cottrill 1-0-3, Detillion 1-0-2, Corcoran 4-0-10, Totals 15-4-38.
Minford — McCray 8-2-18, Stapleton 2-2-8, Alley 0-2-2, Rowe 4-4-14, Kelley 1-0-3, Gullion 1-0-2, Totals 16-10-47.
3-Point Goals — Unioto 4 (Corcoran 2, Overly, Cottrill); Minford 5 (Stapleton 2, Rowe 2, Kelley).
Records — Unioto 20-4; Minford 18-3.