Warren advances: Warriors rally to beat Unioto 50-39 in district semi

ATHENS – At halftime of a Division II district semifinal matchup against Unioto on Friday, the Warren High boys’ basketball team found itself in an unfamiliar spot – trailing.

The Warriors, who dominated the greater part of their schedule, were down 24-20 at the break, but shot 52 percent (11-for-21) in the second half to rally for a 50-39 victory.

“I think it just took us awhile to get comfortable,” said Warren head coach Blane Maddox. “(Unioto) played hard and hit some huge shots. That’s the kind of game you expect in the district. Hopefully we get better coming out next game and perform a little bit better from the get-go.”

With the win, Warren secures its spot in the district championship game against Vinton County Thursday at the Convo.

Junior Evan French paved the way for the Warriors with 19 points and seven rebounds.

“We knew it was gonna be a battle ’till the end of the game,” French said. “We knew that we were gonna have to step it up in the second quarter. We had a good talk with coach and we just knew we had to take care of the ball and get better rotation, take better shots and on the defensive side get out on the shooters. I think we really executed all of our objectives pretty good in the second half.”

Seniors Adam Lang and Dylan Leffingwell each added 10 for the blue and white.

The Shermans were led by Bryce Arledge’s 10 and Chase Detillion’s nine.

Unioto scored the first four points of the game before a 3-pointer by sophomore Michael Hall made it 4-3. A French layup and a free throw from junior Reece Patton gave Warren a 6-4 lead, but the Shermans used an 8-0 run to take a 12-6 advantage.

After a 30 second timeout by Warren, Lang hit a reverse layup but was quickly countered by Kyle Strange’s basket to make it 14-8 after one quarter.

Midway through the second period, Lang scored a pair of layups to bring Warren within three and force a Unioto timeout.

While Lang performed well offensively off the bench, the 6-foot-3 senior said defense was the main key in the game.

“In practice all week we were working on defense, defense, defense,” Lang said. “That really came through for us.”

French tied the contest with a 3-ball out of the timeout, but Unioto’s Nick Corcoran answered with a 3-ball of his own. Senior Evan Yabs then assisted Lang on a layup before Arledge nailed a trey to give the Shermans a 24-20 lead at the half.

The Warriors scored 10 of the first 12 points in the third quarter, led by six from Leffingwell, to claim a 30-26 advantage. Later in the period, with Warren up 32-30, Unioto’s Zach Downs hit a triple to put the Shermans on top for the final time in the contest.

A basket by Leffingwell sparked an 8-0 run which put the Warriors up 41-33, but a foul shot and a 3-pointer by Arledge quickly cut it to a four point game.

From there, French took over, scoring Warren’s next seven points, capped by a big 3-pointer from the left corner, to seal the victory.

“It was my teammates getting me open and setting good screens,” French said of his 15 point second half.

“Also, just kind of seeing the floor better and keeping my head up. Just kind of taking advantage of the situations I got and not trying to force too many things.”

Each team shot 42 percent from the floor in the contest, but Warren outrebounded the Shermans 23-21 and forced Unioto into 15 turnovers while committing just seven.

Unioto closed its 2012-13 campaign with a record of 15-9. The Warriors improved to 23-1 with the win, and will look to bring Warren High School its first ever boys’ basketball district championship on Thursday.

“We only talk about winning each game,” Maddox said. “This team is a new team. Every year is different. The only ones getting over the (district) hump is me and the coaching staff.

“I think the fans would really like to see us do it. But every team is new and they’ve never been to that hump. So it’s just another game to them and hopefully they keep it that way.”