Dazhontae Bennett was ready for the defining moment of his impressive career with the Trotwood-Madison boys basketball program.
“It was a no-doubt,” said Bennett, whose last-second buzzer-beater from about 18 feet in the corner was the difference in Trotwood’s 60-58 overtime defeat of Wayne on Wednesday night.
“I thought I was either going to bring this team into overtime or win it, it was going to be in my hands. It was one of the greatest feelings that I ever felt.”
The spoils of that victory mean Trotwood (24-2) will play Cincinnati Moeller (24-1) in a Division I regional final at 7 p.m. today back at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
Also today it’s Marion Local (22-5) vs. Tri-Village (25-1) in a D-IV regional final at Kettering’s Trent Arena.
Both of today’s winners will advance to next Thursday’s state final four at Columbus. All of those games will be played at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center.
Bennett’s heroics weren’t totally unexpected, although he shot 7 of 21 against Wayne. He led the entire Greater Western Ohio Conference in scoring (24.3 points) and has been the Rams’ go-to shooter for two seasons.
What wasn’t expected was Wayne’s domination in rebounding. The Warriors put an unthinkable 58-21 rebounding hurt on the smaller Rams.
That decisive disadvantage could happen again against Moeller, which can field a front-court lineup of 6-feet-9, 6-8 and 6-6. Trotwood doesn’t have a player taller than 6-4.
“What we did do a good job of — especially late in the second half — was our (defensive) pressure,” reflected Rams coach Rocky Rockhold on Wayne’s 34 turnovers. “We got them to turn it over. We got them to throw the ball where they didn’t want it. We got it out of some guys’ hands. I’m real proud that we were able to push through and play our style at the end of the day.”
Moeller defeated free throw-challenged Middletown 53-50 in its regional semi. The Middies, guided by first-year and former Trotwood head coach Mark Baker, were 10 of 24 at the line.
Moeller is led by 6-2 guard Grant Benzinger (17.0 points), the son of former Cincinnati Reds first baseman Todd Benzinger. Grant has signed to play at Wright State.
Marion Local defeated Russia 69-49 in its D-IV regional semi and Tri-Village KO’ed Troy Christian to advance. Troy Christian advanced to the D-IV state final four last season.