Prep boys basketball: Fort Frye boys eliminated

BYESVILLE – Cody Schau’s put back bucket with 15 seconds remaining proved to be the game winner as the Martins Ferry Purple Riders pulled out a thrilling 51-50 victory over the number one seeded Fort Frye Cadets to clinch a Division III sectional championship Friday night at Meadowbrook High School.

After Fort Fyre’s Shon Smith gave the Cadets a 50-49 lead with 27 seconds to play, Schau grabbed an errant shot by teammate Tyler Strama and hit a short jumper for what turned out to be the game winner.

“I had a feeling it was going to be this kind of a game and come down to the very end,” said Rider head coach Jeff Sabatino. “We have a kid that we think is the best kid in the district (Schau), and they have a kid they think is the best player (Smith) and they were both really good down the stretch, but fortunately ours came through at the end.”

The Cadets got seven first-quarter points from sophomore Seth Legraen to take a 9-7 lead.

Fort Frye suffered a big blow late in the opening period when Chandler Lang drew his second foul, and the Cadet defensive stopper spent the majority of the first half on the bench.

Martins Ferry held a definite size advantage over the Cadets as the combined height of the Rider starters was some 16 inches taller than that of the Cadets.

The Riders began to use that size advantage in the second quarter and a pair of inside scores by Strama gave Ferry their first lead of the game at 13-11.

The Cadets got a huge boost off of the bench from Dominic Omspach as the senior drilled a pair of three-pointers and when Smith followed with a short jumper, the Cadets held a 19-13 lead with 4:15 to play in the first half.

Martins Ferry came storming right back as Schau, a first-team Eastern All-District selection, sparked a 12-3, half ending run with seven points as the Purple Riders took a 25-22 lead into intermission.

It took the Fort all of about 20 seconds to recapture the lead in the second half as Legraen opened the third quarter with a basket and after senior Caden Brooker took a charge, Jordan Anderson connected on one-of-seven Fort Frye treys in the game to send the Cadets in front by a pair at 27-25.

Once again, Martins Ferry came charging right back as Schau and big 6-foot-6 junior Robert Vargo scored all seven points in a MF 7-1 run that gave them a 32-28 lead with three minutes to play in the third.

Smith, who was also named to the first team Eastern All-District team as well as being tapped Player of the Year, showed why with a pair of triples late in the third that sent the red white and blue back in front by a 35-34 margin.

Strama closed out the third quarter with another inside field goal to send Martins Ferry back in front by a point heading to the final eight minutes. After Schau connected on one-of-two free-throw attempts to open the fourth, Legraen went strong to the basket on consecutive FF possessions to give the Cadets a 39-37 lead with 6:30 to play in the game.

“Seth (Legraen) really stepped up his game for us tonight,” said Fort Frye first-year head coach Eric Henniger. “He’s very good at getting to the hoop and he’s athletic and he provides a tough matchup for everybody.”

The Cadets were charged with 16 team fouls in the game compared to just 10 for Martins Ferry, and Schau connected on four consecutive final quarter freebies to once again put Martins Ferry back in front by four at 45-41 with under three minutes to go.

After Legraen drained his second triple of the game to close the lead to a single point, Strama and Vargo answered under the basket for the Riders to make it a 49-44 game with under two minutes to go.

A Smith bucket and a pair of free throws by Lang cut the lead to one and set the stage for the last minute dramatics.

As Cadet fans have grown so used to seeing over the past four years, Smith took the ball strong to the hole and somehow managed to hang in the air longer than the defenders before scooping the ball thru the hoop for the 50-49 lead.

After Schau’s basket the Cadets still had one last chance to pull out a last second victory.

Smith elected to dish the ball off for the final shot after drawing double coverage from the Rider defense but Lang’s last second shot attempt failed to draw a whistle despite heavy contact from Martins Ferry and the Riders had pulled off the upset victory. “Shon is not afraid to take a shot at the end, but they really had him bottled up,” said Henniger of the final play. “Chandler had a good look and got fouled but they didn’t call it and that’s just the way it goes.”

Schau led all scorers with a game-high 25 points as well as grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out five assists for the Purple Riders, while Strama and Vargo added 12 and nine points respectively.

Legraen led the way for the Cadets with 19 points, while Smith finished his Fort Frye career with 15.

Martins Ferry improved to 12-8 on the season with the victory and will now move on to Ohio University-Eastern for district tournament play Tuesday while the Cadets finish the season with a 15-8 mark.

Henniger was proud of the effort put forth by his team, especially that of the four seniors on the Cadet roster.

“All year long they have stepped up big and put in a lot of work,” said Henniger of Brooker, Smith, Omspach and Tyler Norris. “They set a great example for all of the under class men and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”