BYESVILLE? - The Monroe Central Seminoles advanced to the New Philadelphia District finals with a 45-41 overtime victory over the Fort Frye Cadets at Meadowbrook High Saturday night.
Playing against each another for the fourth time this season, the much anticipated rematch between these two rivals lived up to its pre-game billing.
The Seminoles grabbed the early lead and then fought off a late Cadet charge to advance to the district finals for the first time in school history.
"It just came down to execution," said MC head coach Greg Taylor. "It was kind of like it was our turn. We executed down the stretch when we had to."
Monroe got on the board first with a free-throw from Guiler Bettinger, but Fort Frye (18-4) answered right back on a 3-ball from senior Eddie Watson.
The two Pioneer Valley Conference schools would trade the lead back and forth for most of the first quarter with a Shon Smith jumper knotting the game at 9-9.
Division III Boys Basketball Sectionals
Meadowbrook High School
Monroe Central 45 Fort Frye 41 (OT)
MONROE CENTRAL 12-14-8-7-4(OT) 45
FORT FRYE 9-8-15-9-0 (OT) 41
MONROE CENTRAL (17-5)
JIMMY BAKER 3-8 (0-2) 7, KORY HILL 2-5 (0-1) 5,
SHANE HIGHMAN 1-3 (0-0) 2, MARCUS SCHUMACHER 7-14 (1-2) 16, TYE DIMMERLING 1-2 (0-0) 2, GUILLER BETTINGER 4-7 (1-2) 9, C.J. WISE 2-5 (0-0) 4
THREE POINT GOALS (3-7) (BAKER 1, HILL 1 SCHUMACHER 1)
REBOUNDS 21 (BETTINGER 9)
ASSISTS 8 TURNOVERS 9
FORT FRYE (18-4)
DONALD HILVERDING 2-6 (0-0) 5, SHON SMITH 4-9 (2-2) 12, EDDIE WATSON 1-5 (0-2) 3, COLT SKINNER 1-2 (0-0) 2, GARRET LEGRAEN 4-6 (3-7) 11, ZACH EDDY 3-6 (0-0) 8
THREE POINT GOALS 6-17 (EDDY 2, SMITH 2, HILVERDING 1, WATSON 1)
REBOUNDS 20 (LEGRAEN 8, EDDY 5)
ASSISTS 13 TURNOVERS 7
Smith, coming off of a 33 point output last week against West Muskingum, had been coming up big on last second shots for the Cadets.
On this night, however, Monroe Central junior guard Jimmy Baker provided the drama, connecting on a long 3-point shot of his own as the first quarter came to a close and giving his team a 12-9 lead.
MC senior and leading scorer Marcus Schumacher connected on a beautiful fade away jumper to begin the second quarter and increase the Seminole lead to 14-9.
The five-point lead marked the first time in three quarters of play (including the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship game) that either team would take a lead of more than one possession.
Donald Hilverding answered right back with a driving layup to cut the lead back to three.
Fort Frye head coach Dan Liedtke elected to start senior Colt Skinner in place of usual starter Zach Eddy.
Coming off the bench seemed to sit well with Eddy as he connected on back-to-back three balls and pulled the Cadets to within one at 18-17 with four left in the half.
"Zach came in tonight and played the way I know he can play," said Liedtke. "He made some nice shots."
Neither team had been able to put together any kind of a real run until the momentum seemed to switch to Central late in the half.
Two field goals by Schumacher sparked an 8-0 Seminole run that sent them to the intermission with a big 26-17 lead.
With the three previous match-ups coming right down to the wire a Seminole blow-out was not expected.
"I really felt we were going to come back," said Liedtke, "and we were able to get it together.
Enter Shon Smith. After being limited to only two first half points, the Cadet sophomore accounted for eight third-quarter points and moved the Fort back to within 4 at 32-28 with 2:30 to go in the third.
Monroe moved into a deliberate offense in an effort to take time off the clock. Bettinger and Cadet Garrett Legraen traded buckets and a lefthanded, buzzer beater by Skinner would bring the third to a close with Monroe Central clinging to a 34-32 lead.
The final quarter started with some sloppy play as both squads turned the ball over on numerous occasions.
A jumper by Smith knotted the score for the first time since the first quarter at 34-34.
After a C.J. Wise rebound and score put the Noles back up by two, Hilverding drained a trey and give Fort Frye a 37-36 lead.
Schumacher put MC back in front with another jumper and Legraen scored on a nice assist from Smith to put the Fort back up by one.
Schumacher then went strong to the hole, scored, and drew a foul to complete an all important three-point point play giving Monroe a two-point lead at 41-39.
Legraen drew a foul on the other end and converted both free-throws to knot the score at 41-41 with a minute to go setting the stage for another thrilling finish.
Each team had outstanding support from its fans and the entire vocal crowd came to its feet for the final minute of regulation.
Taylor elected for his squad to hold the ball for one final shot and called a timeout with 15 seconds to play.
Everyone in the gym knew the ball would go to Schumacher for the final shot and his 10-foot attempt bounced off of the rim and bounced out towards the top of the key.
"I thought Marcus got fouled going to the hole," said Taylor of Schumacher who drew a double team from the Cadet defense.
The loose ball was recovered by Legraen, and he was fouled by Baker, avoiding what would have been a game winning breakaway lay-up.
Legraen, the hero in the OVAC championship game with a last second tip-in, stepped to the line for a one-in-one with 3.3 seconds to go. His first shot bounced in and out and the Seminoles grabbed the rebound and forced a fitting overtime for these two rivals.
"That was just the break we needed." said Taylor of the Legraen miss.
Both teams slowed the play down in overtime and with 2:04 to go neither team had scored.
Then came the key play of the game. With the Seminoles driving to the basket, the Cadets defense was able to strip the ball away but watched helplessly as the loose ball bounced right into the hands of a wide open Bettinger for what proved to be the deciding score.
Baker then scooped up a Cadet turnover and scored to put the Noles up by four.
FF had a few final chances as Central converted only 2 of 7 free-throws, but were unable to duplicate its recent late game dramatics, and the Seminoles ticket was punched to New Philadelphia.
"A total team effort tonight," said Taylor whose teams record improved to 17-5 on the season. "I am so happy for our boys and our program."
After each team won two of the four meetings, Taylor was in no hurry for a fifth rematch between the two.
"When I saw Dan (Liedtke) when we walked in here tonight, I said just tell me we don't have to play a fifth time." joked Taylor.
Schumacher's 16 markers paced the Seminoles while Bettinger added 9 points and 9 rebounds. Smith led the Cadets with 12 points, while Legraen added 11 points and 8 boards.
Liedtke praised his teams efforts. "For us to go down the way we did is tough, but every kid fought as hard as they could." said Liedtke whose Cadets season came to an end with an 18-4 record.
Monroe Central moves on to play Garroway in New Philadelphia Tuesday night.