The tournament seeding says it’s an upset. Don’t tell that to Stivers.
Stivers, a No. 4 seed in the Division III sectional tournament, knocked off top-seeded Bishop Fenwick with sensational guard play from Robert Caldwell and stingy defense down the stretch in a 56-50 win at the University of Dayton Arena on Friday.
“If you wanna call it that. To us, no,” Stivers coach Jay Hall said of the upset label. “It’s no disrespect to Fenwick and they play in a very tough conference. So do we. Going into the draw I knew Versailles and Fenwick would be the top two teams.”
Versailles is up next for Stivers in the district final back at UD on Thursday. Versailles beat Bethel 81-34 at UD.
“Oh man, they’re tough,” Hall said. “We’re going to have to handle their physicality. In the City League everyone is aggressive but there’s a lot of finesse. (Versailles) would rather run you over than block your shot.”
Stivers (17-8) got a good warm-up Friday. In a game that saw nine lead changes and eight ties, it was the Tigers who took control late. Fenwick senior Leo Haenni put down his second dunk of the fourth quarter to tie the game 46-46 with 5:04 to play. Caldwell responded with six of the Tigers’ final 10 points, including a dagger with 1:03 left. Nearly losing control of the ball as he weaved through the lane Caldwell tossed up a shot that went in, making it 54-50 with 1:03 to go.
Fenwick (20-5) couldn’t answer going scoreless the final 1:34. Haenni and Frank Catrine led the Falcons with 13 points each.
“Just couldn’t make shots,” Fenwick coach Pat Kreke said. “We didn’t shoot well. When you don’t put it in the basket and they do, this is the outcome it’s going to be. Give them a lot of credit. (Stivers) played their butts off. They did a nice job.”
Caldwell led Stivers with 29 points, including their first eight in the game. Rodrick Caldwell added 11 points. Dwight McKinney scored four points in the final 2:43, including a pair of free throws with 42 seconds left helping Stivers reach its first district final since 2006.
“This is not normal for Stivers to be here,” Hall said. “I think these guys believing they can win, it’s something you have to learn. Hopefully we can change the culture that losing is okay, because it’s not. … We’re just playing together right now. We’re playing for each other and that makes a big difference in how successful you are.”
West Liberty-Salem 47, Anna 38: The fifth-seeded Tigers (20-5) returned to their first district championship game since 2005 after a scare from the 13th-seeded Rockets (11-14).
Anna stormed to a 12-2 lead against West Liberty-Salem, but the Tigers’ defense kept the sectional title game from getting too far away from them. Senior Landon Hormann’s game-high 16 points and the team’s 18-for-19 effort from the free-throw line played key roles in the Tigers’ comeback. Their only miss was the last free throw of the game.
“We’ve shot them well all season but that’s a pretty good night,” WL-S coach Aaron Hollar said of a team that averages 70 percent from the line.
Senior Grant Burden added 10 points, senior Travis Mayse eight and sophomore Connor Woods eight for a WL-S team that won six games a season ago. WL-S also beat Anna 53-50 on Feb. 2.
Anna junior Joel Albers pulled the Rockets to 37-36 with 4:14 left in the game. Woods then scored two straight baskets and added a pair of free throws for a personal 6-2 run and the 43-38 lead. Hormann then closed it out with four straight free throws.
“I was so proud of them at halftime the way we defended the entire first half despite having some major offensive issues,” said Hollar, whose team trailed 12-4 after one quarter and 19-17 at the half. “A lot of times kids let the offense affect the defense.”
West Liberty-Salem plays Cin. Summit Country Day, the state’s top-ranked team in D-III, on Thursday at UD Arena. SCD beat Purcell Marian 73-40 on Friday.
Albers’ 13 points led an Anna team that started the season 0-8.
Versailles 81, Bethel 34: Kyle Ahrens scored 23 points as the No. 2 Tigers (20-5) advanced to the district final Thursday at UD.
Versailles, which led 29-15 at the half, used its length and experience to outscored Bethel 32-12 in the third quarter. Jacob Wenning added 15 points and Damien Richard 14 for Versailles, a regional semifinalist last season.
The No. 7 Bees (16-8) were led by Patrick Bain (12 points) and Gus Schwieterman (11).
Versailles has held its first three tournament opponents to under 40 points.
“We’ve always taken pride at Versailles in good man-to-man defense,” Versailles coach Scott McEldowney said. “They did a tremendous job.”