FOSTORIA - Another sterling defensive performance and excellent shooting from Matt Rennert and John Pickett led Western Reserve to a 50-39 Division III District Tournament semifinal win over Elmwood Thursday at Fostoria High School.
The Roughriders, who improved to 17-5 overall, are scheduled to play Liberty-Benton at 7 p.m. Saturday in a district final. The Eagles downed New London 68-54 in the second district semifinal.
For the second straight tournament game, Western held its opponent to under 40 points. Elmwood, the Suburban Lakes League champion which ended 19-3, really struggled in the second half when the Royals only scored 14 points.
"I'll take that any day of the week," said Roughriders coach Chris Sheldon about his team allowing only 14 points after halftime.
Western, which advances to the district finals for the second time in three years, struggled offensively early, but the defense supplied some early points when Pickett and Adam Daniels scored off of steals.
Elmwood moved out front 13-6. But in the last minute and a half, Craig Buckingham scored on an alley-oop play, Rennert came up with steal, and Daniels launched a successful three-point shot with just two seconds to go to bring the Riders to 13-11, at the first quarter break.
Western opened the second stanza with quick buckets by Jeff Rennert and Daniels, to regain the lead, 15-13. Matt Rennert then hit the first of his trio of three-pointers in the quarter to keep the Riders ahead.
His first three-pointer banked in, but his other four threes for the night were right on target.
Elmwood fought back to take a 22-18 lead, but Matt Rennert hit two triples and Brett Pickens added another as the Roughriders took a 27-25 halftime lead.
"In the first half, we weren't very sharp offensively. We had some miscommunication at the defensive end which led to some easy plays," Sheldon said.
Western only scored nine points in the third period, yet pulled away a bit. The Riders held Elmwood to five points, and it was 36-30 at the three quarter mark. Pickett had four points and Buckingham three rebounds in the quarter.
Pickett hit a hook shot and a lay-up, but those were Western's only points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. Elmwood hit 5-of-6 free throws, and had a 9-4 scoring advantage to close within 40-39.
Western never let the Royals regain the lead. Pickett hit a baseline jump shot and Matt Rennert another three, and the lead went back to six, 45-39, at the three minute mark. The Riders then scored the game's final five points.
"We didn't miss a defensive assignment in the second half, and that is the reason that we lived to play another day," Sheldon said. "We were a little sharper offensively.
"I thought our bigs did a tremendous job of limiting their bigs' touches, and when they got them, they really had to earn them in the second half," Sheldon said.
Matt Rennert took game scoring honors with 16 points. He only missed two shots all night. Pickett had 14 points to go along with five rebounds, and eight of his points came in the crucial final period.
Buckingham contributed eight points and four rebounds.
"John and Matt sort of carried us offensively," Sheldon said.
Western went 20-of-36 (56 percent) from the field and 3-of-5 (60 percent) from the free-throw line with 21 rebounds and 16 turnovers. Elmwood put numbers of 14-of-40 (35 percent) and 9-of-13 (69 percent) with 19 rebounds and 13 turnovers.
"Saturday night we've got a real big challenge. They (Liberty-Benton) have the No. 1 ranking in the state of Ohio for a reason," Sheldon said.
WESTERN RESERVE 50
Pickens 1-0-3, Jeff Rennert 1-0-2, Pickett 7-0-14, Daniels 3-0-7, Matt Rennert 5-1-16, Buckingham 3-2-8. Totals: 20-3-53.
Rothenbuler 2-2-7, Reynolds 3-3-9, Stewart 4-0-8, Hammer 0-3-3, Shank 5-1-12. Totals: 14-9-39.
W. Reserve 11- 16- 9- 14-- 50
Elmwood 13 -12- 5- 9-- 39