Cadets top Noles: Fort Frye boys defeat Monroe Central 58-47

BEVERLY – Generally speaking, a 28 point lead in the second half of a basketball game doesn’t really give a coach gray hairs.

But when that same 28 point lead becomes a two-possession lead with less than two minutes to play, well, it’s easy to see why Fort Frye boys’ basketball coach Eric Henniger might want a little coloring after Friday’s game against the Monroe Central Seminoles.

Despite watching a lead that stood over 20 points for nearly half the game fade down the stretch, the Cadets held off the Seminoles second half push for a 58-47 victory in Beverly.

“The second quarter we were working the ball. We were playing defense. We were hustling. We were doing everything we needed to do,” Henniger said. “The third quarter we came out lazy, didn’t seem like we wanted it.”

Fort Frye’s dismal second half proved to be the opportunity the Seminoles needed, as they collected their breath after being outscored 21-5 in the second quarter to put together a solid showing over the final two frames.

After shooting just 5-for-22, including 0-for-13 from beyond the arc, in the first half the Seminoles hit on 45 percent of their shots in the second half of play, including 6-of-15 from three.

“The last half was the first time we’ve played the way we think we can play,” said Monroe Central boys’ basketball coach Lou Tolzda.

Trailing by 23 points at halftime, Monroe outscored the Cadets 35-23 in the second half and trailed by just six points with 1:40 to play in regulation after Gavin Morton’s basket in the paint off Bryan Duffy’s assist.

Monroe had a chance to close the gap to within just a single possession at three points, but Duffy’s three rimmed out and the Cadets would hit five free throws down the stretch – including a 4-for-4 effort from freshman Justin Anderson – to close out the game.

“Against Caldwell we hit some clutch free throws at the end. I’m glad we had some pressure free throws again and he (Anderson) hit them,” Henniger said.

Those charity tosses spoiled the Seminoles comeback bid on a deficit that reached as high as 23 points in the first half and 28 with just over three minutes to play in the third quarter.

Instead of being a comfortable, easy victory the Cadets found themselves fighting for their Pioneer Valley Conference championship dreams and giving their coach a little more stress than expected.

Up by 28, the Cadets lost their momentum as the Seminoles rattled off the final nine points of the third quarter, making the score 47-28 heading into the final frame. The Cadets would hit the first two buckets of the fourth with Seth Legraen and Carter Kiefer each scoring in the paint to push the lead back out to 51-28, but that would be the last time the lead expanded above 20.

“We would come down on the offensive end and one or two passes, shoot. Or one or two passes and turnover. You’re playing right into Monroe’s game plan,” Henniger said.

Following Kiefer’s basket, the Seminoles tallied 19 of the next 21 points to trail by just six, well within striking range of their three-point sharpshooters.

“We finally started shooting the ball, and we’ve got two or three kids that can shoot threes,” Tolzda said.

All that offensive success brought the Seminoles on the cusp of completing the ultimate comeback, but in the end the hole dug during the second quarter when the Cadets held Monroe Central to just 2-of-14 shooting from the field and only five points proved too much to handle.

“That’s a classic case of just shutting down and taking it easy,” Henniger said. “That’s not something we wanted, but they did handle it at the end. They faced adversity and got their minds right.”

With the win, Fort Frye is now 14-2 on the season with their only PVC loss coming to the Buckeye Trail Warriors. The Seminoles fell to 12-4 on the campaign. Both schools are slated to compete in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference tournament beginning on Monday.

If each squad wins their OVAC game, they could meet for the third time in the title game next week.

“We’re walking away feeling like we accomplished something, even though we didn’t get a win,” Tolzda said.