Warren drops regular season finale to Dover
VINCENT — The Dover Tornadoes left no doubt who the top team in the East Central Ohio League was this season.
The visiting Tornadoes took down Warren 67-38 Friday night to clinch the ECOL championship. Dover is now 14-4 overall and 7-0 in the ECOL, while Warren dropped to 16-3 overall and 6-2 in the league. A win Friday would have guaranteed a share of the league title for the Warriors, but Dover did not allow it.
“That’s our first goal always,” said Dover head coach Bobby Von Kaenel of winning the league.
“I thought the kids battled really hard and kept their composure in a really physical game. The physicality is nothing more than the size of the court. It makes people a little tighter everywhere they’re at. We knew that coming in. We had a great team win.”
Dover got exceptional play from two of its guards, T.C. Molk and Ayden Hall. Molk scored a game-high 20 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Hall added seven points, a game-high five assists and four boards.
“Ayden and T.C. direct traffic and run the show,” Von Kaenel said. “I think they’re the two best guards in the league.”
Dover, which has one regular season game remaining Saturday at Cambridge, jumped out to an 11-2 advantage and led 13-6 after a quarter.
Warren began to get its offense going in the second quarter, but still saw its deficit grow to nine, 30-21, by halftime.
“They took us out of things we wanted to do,” said Warren head coach Blane Maddox. “They shot 53% and their defense caused us to shoot 28 or 29%. They outrebounded us. Just a mix of bad things. They played an excellent ballgame.”
The Tornadoes opened the third period with a 9-2 run to extend their lead to 16, 39-23, forcing the Warriors to turn up the defensive pressure. Dover handled it well, though, and ran away with the game.
“That’s twice we’ve been beat on our home court like that with two quality teams that have shot over 50 and held us to 30,” said Maddox, referring to a previous loss to Eastern Brown. “What happens is you overextend your defense and you’re pressing to get back. They’re too good. They spread out and you’ve got to stay in front of them, but when we extended we couldn’t (stay in front) and it got worse than what it should’ve.”
Tyler Little added 12 points for the Tornadoes, all in the second half. He found the open spots down low when Warren pressured Molk and Hall. Caleb Grove chipped in eight points for the visitors.
Kurt Taylor knocked down a couple 3-pointers and paced Warren with 10 points. Seth Dennis added seven points and three assists while Brayden Sallee tallied five points and eight boards.
“Warren has a really nice team,” Von Kaenel said. “They have a chance to advance a good ways in the Division II sectional and district. They’ve got a great inside game and a great outside game. They’re solid defensively. That was two solid defensive teams. We hang our hat on how good our defense can play and I thought they were very good tonight.”
Maddox was disappointed the Warriors couldn’t grab a share of the league title.
“We play for championships,” he said. “We came up short. That’s the first chance we’ve had for a number of years to get a (league) championship and we weren’t able to get it. I’m proud that we did compete and we are second in the league, and it’s not an easy league.”
Warren’s regular season is over, with tournament play beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The Warriors will play either Circleville or Washington Court House in the first round. While Warren isn’t going into the tournament on a great note, Maddox is hoping his team can learn from Friday’s loss and use it as motivation.
“We lost our last game before the tournament last year and had a great run,” Maddox said. “I expect the same thing this year.”
Jordan Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.