The South Central boys basketball team closed out its regular season with a 69-59 win over visiting St. Paul Friday night. The win gave the Trojans (15-7, 12-2) a Firelands Conference co-championship with Western Reserve.
Both South Central and Western have each won 13 conference titles, the most in FC history. It’s also the second conference crown in three seasons for the Trojans.
South Central made some important free throws in the final two minutes to seal the victory. Overall, the Trojans shot 17-of-22 (77 percent) from the free-throw line as a team.
S.C. coach Brett Seidel had high praise for his players after the game for the accomplishment. He said the team’s success is the result of all the work they have been doing.
“It’s a testament to my kids. That’s all it is,” Seidel said. “We had a seventh-grade championship and the eighth grade played for a championship. We won a share of the varsity championship.
“It’s the second time in three years, it’s a testament to the kids and their work ethic when no one is watching,” he added. “That’s the key. It isn’t anything I’m doing, it’s what the kids are doing and how much time they are putting into it.”
Both teams started off hot in the first quarter. Simon Blair scored nine of his points in the quarter while Nick Winslow scored eight for the Flyers as the Trojans ended the quarter with a 17-16 lead.
South Central began to pull away some in the second quarter, outscoring the Flyers, 19-9. Blair added seven more points to his total as South Central went into halftime with a 35-25 lead.
The Flyers began to crawl back into the game in the third quarter. A team effort of balanced scoring and great defensive play led the Flyers to score 13 in the quarter while allowing just seven to the Trojans. The Flyers went into the fourth quarter down just four points (42-38).
The Trojans started off the fourth quarter hot, jumping to a nine-point lead less than two minutes into he quarter. Then the Flyers cut the lead to four in the next minute of play. After both teams traded some baskets, the Trojans had a 57-52 lead with 1:56 to play.
That is when the Flyers started fouling the Trojans in hopes that they could capitalize on some misses. The Trojans went 10-for-12 from the free-throw line in the remaining time, and the Flyers only added seven more points.
St. Paul coach Mike Smith also praised the Trojans on their win and accomplishment as co-champs.
“Credit South Central and Coach Seidel and their players on their co-championship,” Smith said. “I have a lot of respect for him and his players. I thought they shot it really well.”
Smith said the game went similarly to the way their first matchup played out back in January.
“I really give our kids a lot of credit. We clogged back into it there,” Smith said. “We had a chance to win. It’s kind of a mirror of the first game. We had it down to four and then they got that last little spurt. Then we had to foul, and they are a good free-throw shooting team.”
The Trojans offense was led by Blair, who had 22 points. Senior Ben Lamoreaux added 18 points and seven rebounds.
Freshman Nick Winslow led the Flyers offense with 20 points and also grabbed five rebounds. Twin sibling Nate Winslow added 14, while Jake Griffin finished with 12 points.
St. Paul (11-11, 7-7) faces Crestline (10-11) at 8 p.m. Tuesday in a Division IV sectional semifinal at Galion High School. A win gives the Flyers a third shot at South Central in the March 2 sectional title game back at Galion.
“Hopefully we get an opportunity to play them again,” Smith said. “That game to us probably means a little bit more than the game tonight means for them.”
Even though the Trojans have beaten the Flyers both times this season, Seidel said he is not crazy about facing any team a third time.
“I don’t like playing a team three times. I don’t,” he said. “Smitty (Smith) does an unbelievable job preparing his kids, so they are going to be ready to go Tuesday night, and they will be ready to go Friday night if they are fortunate enough to win on Tuesday.”