Boys basketball: Tecumseh beats Lebanon for second straight postseason win

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

VANDALIA — Moments after his team’s second straight postseason victory, Tecumseh High school junior Collin O’Connor sprinted out of the locker room and yelled “Wooooo!”

The Arrows had plenty to celebrate. O’Connor scored a game-high 23 points as Tecumseh led from start to finish, beating Lebanon 57-39 in a Division I, Dayton I second round game on Tuesday night at the Vandalia Butler Student Activity Center.

“The boys did a great job and came out fired up,” said Arrows coach Kyle Leathley. “They were ready to go. It’s been awhile since we’ve got a couple tournament wins and they were excited for tonight.”

The Arrows improved to 15-8 and advanced to the district semifinals for the first time since 2015. They’ll face defending state champion and undefeated Centerville (24-0) in a district semifinal game at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Vandalia.

Tecumseh junior Brayden Stafford opened the game with a 3-pointer as the Arrows jumped out to a 9-0 lead. They held the Warriors (10-14) scoreless for the first seven minutes of the game and led 12-2 after the first quarter. They extended their lead to 24-5 on another 3-pointer by Stafford, who finished the game with nine points.

“(Brayden Stafford) came in and hit some big shots and that kind of opened things up for (O’Connor),” Leathley said. “It created some space for us. We played really well.”

Tecumseh took a 31-18 lead into the locker room on a last-second bucket by junior Luke Ehlinger. The Arrows led by as many as 18 points midway through the third quarter, but the Warriors went on an 8-0 run, cutting the lead to 42-32.

Lebanon, however, wouldn’t get any closer. The Arrows switched to a 2-3 zone, forcing the Warriors to settle for jump shots. They held Lebanon to seven points in the fourth quarter.

“We had been talking about it all week,” Leathley said. “I don’t always like playing zone, but when you get a lead, sometimes it slows them down and that’s what it did tonight, especially at that time of the game.”

O’Connor scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half despite being face-guarded by the Warriors throughout the game.

“He’s tough to guard,” Leathley said. “He’s clearly one of the better players in the area. He’s good at creating space. Honestly, half the time we need to stay out of his way. The more you can space the floor and get it to shooters, the better he is. We’ve seen so many different types of defenses this year and he’s been so unselfish, giving the ball up when he gets doubled.”

The Arrows will face a tough task in the district semifinals against Centerville, the D-I state poll champs who’ve won 40 straight games. The Elks beat Belmont 81-33 in the first game at Vandalia.

“(Brook Cupps) is a great coach and they’ve got great players,” Leathley said. “I think the opportunity to play them is something the boys wanted. I think they showed that tonight. As an athlete and a competitor, you want to play the best and let the chips fall where they may.”

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