The Catholic Central High School boys basketball is back in the Division IV regional semifinals for the second straight season.
The Irish (22-3) forced 15 turnovers and held on for a 71-63 victory over New Miami to win its second straight Division IV district championship Friday night at UD Arena.
“I’m just so proud of this group and what they’ve been able to accomplish the last few years,” said Irish coach Cody Sarensen.
Catholic Central will play St. Henry in a D-IV regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Trent Arena. The third-ranked Redskins (22-3) beat defending state champion Marion Local 52-40 in a D-IV district final game at Wapakoneta.
Mykah Eichie had 21 points for the seventh-ranked Irish, who won their sixth straight game. It all started with defense, he said.
“Defense leads to offense,” Eichie said. “We were running, boxing out, getting rebounds, passing the ball.”
While they’re happy to bet back to the Sweet 16, the Irish want more, he said.
“I’m very happy, but I’m ready to get back to business,” Eichie said. “I’m not satisfied yet.”
Sabien Doolittle added 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Trey Dunn scored 15 points and Jayden Borden added 11 in the victory.
The Irish shared the ball throughout, winning the assists battle 16 to 3.
The score was tied at 18 midway through the second quarter, but the Irish went on an 11-3 run to end the half with a 29-21 lead. The run was capped by an Eichie layup at the buzzer.
“It was a huge play,” Sarensen said. “Great players make big-time plays and he did that. All of our guys stepped up whether it was offensively or defensively. That team is scrappy and they can shoot. I’m glad our guys were able to stay composed and hang in there.”
The Irish led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter, but the Vikings continued to chip away. They clawed back in the fourth quarter, but never got closer than eight points.
Deanza Duncan and Jordan Robinette each had 23 points for the Vikings, who advanced to the districts for the first time since 2003. New Miami finished its season 16-10.
“We never let down,” said Vikings coach Jared Lee. “It means a lot as a coach. We had plenty of times to fold. To me, it means the world that these kids dug in and kept going.”
With 30 seconds remaining, Sarensen told his assistant coaches he was finally going to sit down on the bench and enjoy watching his team win.
“It’s what they do,” Sarensen said. “It’s really special. I’m glad we got the win. Now, we’ve got to get ready for St. Henry.”
Jackson Center (21-5) will play conference rival Fort Loramie (19-7) in the other D-IV regional semifinal game at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The winners of Tuesday’s game will face off in the regional final at 7 p.m. Friday at Trent Arena.
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