PDT Sports Writer
ATHENS — It may have been sluggish at first Monday night, but the No. 3 East Tartans wore out No. 7 Waterford and advanced 53-37 in a Division IV Southeast District Semifinal at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.
East moves on to Saturday’s district final against No. 1 Notre Dame, which survived a 43-42 scare from No. 5 Reedsville Eastern earlier in the night. The Tartans, who were swept in the two prior meetings this season against the Titans, will be looking to hoist their first district title since 1995.
“I thought the first two-and-a-half quarters was real sloppy, kind of lethargic,” East coach Adam Bailey said. “I don’t know if we were nervous or I think maybe us not being the underdog, we’ve not played the favorite here in the last few years. I don’t know if the nerves got to them but I thought in the fourth quarter, we did a really good job of executing what we wanted to do.”
It was a wire-to-wire victory for the Tartans, who had their lead dip to a single point once in the latter stages of the third quarter. From there, East went on a 14-0 run that extended into the midway point of the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
“We got the ball to the post, we got the ball to the rim a couple of times on layups and I thought defensively, we weren’t getting some of the 50-50 balls in the first half,” Bailey said. “…It seemed in the end of the third quarter and the fourth quarter, our kids really wanted the ball. They started getting after it, they were diving on the floor, they were getting those 50-50 balls.”
Defensive pressure from the Tartans proved to be the difference as they held the Wildcats to 17-of-60 from the field. East pounded the inside with 32 points in the paint, 18 coming in the final stanza.
Leading the Tartan charge was Justin Crager, who led all scorers with 21 points. He also had eight rebounds and seven assists.
“I thought Justin did a great job of taking the game over with him handling the ball, handling the pressure and getting the ball to the right spots,” Bailey said.
Patrick Bias chipped in with 19 points and 15 rebounds.
“Pat struggled a little bit in the first first half but I thought he really came on really big (in the second),” Bailey said.
Now the attention is focused on the top-seeded Titans. Despite losing the first contest by 23, Bailey hopes the second contest — a five-point defeat — is a step in the right direction towards taking one game in the season series.
“We’re going to be real familiar with each other,” Bailey said. “It’s great for the league, it’s great for our area.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
East 12 10 7 24 — 53
Waterford 6 9 11 11 — 37
East — Crager 9-3-21, Russell 4-1-9, Bradford 1-0-2, Gerald 1-0-2, Bias 9-1-19, Totals 24-4-53.
Waterford — Moore 1-0-2, Strahler 1-2-4, Porter 2-0-4, Paxton 3-1-8, Shriver 1-0-2, Pugh 3-1-7, Bauerbach 2-0-4, Pottmeyer 2-0-4, Ginther 1-0-2, Totals 17-3-37.
3-Point Goals — East 1 (Russell); Waterford 2 (Paxton, Pugh).
Records — East 17-7; Waterford 9-15.