District champs: Fort Frye tops Tuscarawas Valley to earn first Sweet 16 berth since 2006
The Cadets studied the film, memorized the scouting report and made sure they were as prepared as they possibly could be for Friday’s Division III district final against the Trojans. The result was a 61-41 victory and the program’s first district championship since 2006.
Fort Frye put on a defensive clinic, especially in the first half, holding the Trojans to just four first-half points. That included pitching a shutout in the first quarter. Tuscarawas Valley made just one field goal on 22 attempts in the first half as the Cadets held a 22-4 halftime advantage.
“Me and Nic were in class studying film all day,” said Fort Frye’s Kelton Fogle, who finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and three assists. “We were ready. To give up four points in a half is huge.”
Nic Hart did a little bit of everything for the Cadets, scoring a game-high 22 points to go along with 12 rebounds, seven steals and four assists.
“I think that was our best defensive game of the whole year,’ Hart said. “Four points in one half, that’s unheard of honestly. That’s awesome. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Braden Medley only scored one point but was a menace in the paint, grabbing 12 boards. Owen Brown added five rebounds, four assists and three points. Dylan Hart scored seven points, Garrett Lipot netted four, Luke Huffman scored three, and Casey Brooker and Zaiden Huck chipped in two apiece.
“Our guys knew the scouting report and they knew what every kid’s tendency was like the back of their hands,” said Fort Frye head coach Eric Henniger, whose team held Tuscarawas Valley to 26% (14 for 54) from the floor. “That makes a big difference when you’ve got kids who are willing to listen to the scouting report and do what the coach says. It’s all them, though, after that. They just give so much energy and effort that it’s hard to score on us sometimes.”
The Cadets (20-2) grabbed a whopping 53 rebounds in the game to the Trojans’ 23.
“That was a big thing we talked about was, because of their size, we had to control the paint somehow,” Henniger said. “We were able to do it. That was a big difference in that first quarter. It kind of set the tone and said ‘Hey, we can rebound as well.’ People always think we can’t rebound, but we do a pretty good job of it.”
Tuscarawas Valley (20-5) got 12 points from Nathan Glaser and nine from Tyler Stump.
Jayson Hall grabbed seven boards. The Trojans were 0 for 10 from the floor in the first quarter as Fort Frye jumped out to a 9-0 lead
Huffman knocked down a 3 to open the second before Hall’s free throw at the 4:32 mark gave Tuscarawas Valley its first point. Fogle and Brown hit 3s to stretch the lead to 20-1. With 1:28 left in the first half, Connar Newsome assisted Glaser on a layup for the visitors’ first field goal of the contest.
The Cadets opened the second half on a 10-0 run to go up 32-4, and they could start to feel it.
“Look at us, we’re cutting down nets in our own gym,” Henniger said. “For these guys to put so much work and effort and practice and stuff in this gym and then get a win like this in their own gym is amazing.”
It was 40-9 going to the fourth. Tuscarawas Valley outscored Fort Frye 32-21 in the final period but the outcome was never in doubt.
It was Henniger’s first time leading Fort Frye to the Sweet 16.
“It’s huge for our program,” he said. “For these guys to play as well as they did was pretty exciting.”
Fort Frye will face Fairland in the regional semifinals at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Southeastern High School. The Cadets defeated the Dragons back in December in Proctorville, winning a 54-53 thriller. For now, though, they’re going to celebrate their big win. There’s plenty of time to dig in to Fairland’s scouting report.
“Us seniors, we’re so glad we could play our district final game here on our home court,” Hart said. “I know none of us wanted to lose it. We all wanted to get that win and keep advancing.”
Jordan Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.