Huron Tigers stave off Margaretta Polar Bears in sectional final

SANDUSKY — Whether it was rust or nerves, top-seeded Huron couldn’t shake Margaretta.

With a nine-point lead sliced to two and dangling precariously late in the fourth quarter, the Tigers staved off a last-second shot from the Polar Bears for a 40-38 Division III Willard District Sectional final win Friday at Sandusky High School.

“When you play a team three times you know every single thing they’re going to do,” Huron coach Bobby James said. “We didn’t handle the fourth quarter as well as we wanted to. The bottom line is we are cutting down the nets. (We) survived and advanced.”

Huron (18-5), who averages almost 75 points a game, seemed to have things in hand midway through the fourth quarter after Aaron Casey (15 points) scored on a layup to give them a 40-31 lead.

Against Margaretta’s (9-15) man-to-man half-court trapping defense, the Tigers started to turn the ball over. The Polar Bears took advantage hitting three free throws, closing the gap to 40-36 with less than a minute remaining.

After Huron’s fifth turnover of the quarter, Dustin Moore (team-high 14 points) made it a one possession game with two more free throws and only 22 seconds remaining in regulation. Forced to foul and put Huron at the free-throw line, the Polar Bears’ strategy worked with the Tigers missing the front end of a one-and-one.

With no timeouts left, Margaretta pushed the ball up the court. It let go a long 3 which went off the front part of the rim. Moore grabbed the rebound and shot a hurried putback which went awry as horn sounded.

“They battled every time out,” Margaretta coach Steve Keller said. “The amount of improvement from the first day until this last game has been a real pleasure to watch. Our guys compete. When you compete; you can overcome some things. We guarded and have taken pride in getting better defensively all year.”

Overcome as an example a 41-23 advantage Huron had on the boards. Casey, a six-foot, three-inch senior, led the Tigers with 11 rebounds. fellow senior Colin McCready, 6-5, had a game-high 16 points. He scored eight points in the third quarter — half of which came on offensive rebounds.

“We were taking good shots,” McCready said. “I was just there for the cleanup and got some layups.

McCready’s third quarter helped propel Huron to a 30-21 lead. He also hit a 3 early in the fourth quarter to help push the lead out to 33-26 after Margaretta closed the gap to within four, 30-26 early in the fourth quarter. But the Tigers never could seem to get into an offensive rhythm and were held scoreless for the final four minutes.

“I think it was mostly nerves,” McCready said. “We’ll get it. The hardest win to get is this one. We were a little shaky from the layoff. We tried to get it inside. We came out kind of shaky and nervous.

“Margaretta plays good defense, but we have to get the flow of things better ourselves. They gave us a challenge and we accepted it.”

Evidence it could be a rough night offensively for Huron showed itself early with Huron scoring only eight points in the first quarter. The SBC’s top scoring team was 4 of 16 from the field in the first quarter.

“We were tight,” James said. “We were pressing too hard. These kids have expectations and they have to start playing up to them”

After scoring 11 points in the first half, the Polar Bears’ offense came to life scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter as they made their comeback. Keller thought the defense helped spearhead the comeback.

“We played a lot more man than we had originally thought we could,” Keller said. “We turned them over at some critical points.”

Huron advances to the district semifinals and will play next Thursday at 8 p.m. at Willard High School against New London.

Division III Willard District

Sectional Final

MARGARETTA — Dylan Bailey 2-0 6, Hunter Dye 2-0 4, Tyler Kane 4-0 8, Austin Moore 5-3 14, Logan Brauer 1-0 3. TOTALS 14-6 38.

HURON — Aaron Casey 7-1 15, Colin McCready 7-0 16, Jack Springer 1-0 2, Ryan Cauwenbaugh 1-1 3, Aaron Driftmyer 2-0 4. TOTALS 18-2 40.

3-POINT GOALS — M: Bailey (2), Moore, Brauer; H: McCready (2).

Score By Quarters

Margaretta (9-15) 4 7 10 17 — 38

Huron (18-5) 8 12 10 10 — 40

Team Statistics

Field Goals — Margaretta 14 of 37 (38 percent), Huron 18 of 50 (36 percent)

Free Throws — M 6 of 8 (75 percent), H 2 of 10 (20 percent)

Rebounds — M 23, H 41.

Turnovers — M 13, H 15.

@MJournalSports

Last Updated: 3/1/2013 11:37:06 PM EST

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