- By Greg Billing Contributing Writer
Jake Woeber didn’t get to see the results of his hard work, a rebound under the Catholic Central basket seconds away from being bounced out of the Division IV sectional tournament. But the Catholic Central senior heard it.
The Irish crowd let Woeber – and likely anyone else in the immediate vicinity of Troy High School – know.
RELATED: Saturday’s high school scoreboard
RELATED: Saturday’s high school roundup
Woeber’s hard-fought rebound and ensuing pass to junior teammate Trey Dunn capped a frantic final seconds in regulation as Dunn’s three-pointer was all net at the buzzer. The shot forced overtime against Legacy Christian and provided the momentum the Irish needed for a stunning 42-40 sectional final win.
“Without my man Jake Woeber, without that rebound I wouldn’t have had the chance,” Dunn said. “I give real good props to him. Without him I don’t get the shot. Determination and heart.”
Catholic Central (22-3), the sectional’s top-seeded team, trailed for all but the first 41 seconds of the fourth quarter. No. 2 Legacy Christian’s lead was never more than three points, but an Irish turnover with 15 seconds left and trailing 36-33 seemed to seal the minor upset.
The Knights (18-7) missed two bonus free throws with 12.7 seconds left to give the Irish a final shot. Actually, two. Catholic Central missed a three-pointer with about five seconds left. Woeber wrestled the rebound away from a Legacy Christian player. Leaping away from the defender he found Dunn on the left side. Dunn’s catch and release hit the bottom of the net as time expired.
“I could tell (the first shot) was a little long, so I went for it and it came down to me,” said Woeber, who added he wasn’t boxed out by the Knights. “I jumped and I could see Trey floating out there. … Honestly, I couldn’t see the rim. I was laying on the ground after I threw the pass. I didn’t have an angle I could see it. Once I heard the crowd reaction I knew it went in.”
“That is something Woeber does better than anybody else,” Catholic Central coach Cody Sarensen said. “He finds rebounds in the most important moments of the game.”
Dunn, for his part, had a great view. After he scored he sprinted to the Irish faithful for a quick celebration.
“Go in. Please go in,” Dunn said he thought to himself when he let the ball fly. “It felt good. It went in and the crowd went crazy. It was kind of surreal.”
Catholic Central controlled overtime by scoring the first six points on a basket by junior Mykah Eichie, a steal and layup from Dunn and a pair of Dunn free throws. Legacy Christian scored with 34 seconds left and – after three straight missed free throws from Catholic Central – with one second remaining.
The win puts Catholic Central in the D-IV district final against Ripley Union Lewis Huntington, a 58-51 winner over James N. Gamble Montessori, on Friday at the University of Dayton Arena. It’s the first district appearance for the Irish since 1997.
“These guys are resilient,” Sarensen said. “They’re really understanding the tradition of Catholic Central. It’s a rich tradition and this year has been incredible.”
In addition to the district appearance, the Irish also won their first conference championship in 17 seasons.
“To be part of the tradition here at Central is such a privilege. I can only thank God for the opportunity,” Woeber said. “We knew we had something special. We were just hoping to put it together.”
It came together Saturday night, albeit at the last possible second. Dunn also hit a last-second layup against Jefferson in the first round of the sectional tournament last season.
“Any time he has the ball for the last-second shot I always have confidence in him,” Sarensen said.
Legacy Christian struggled in the fourth, hitting 2-of-7 free throws in the quarter. The Knights were 0-for-2 in overtime and 7-of-16 overall. Catholic Central missed five its seven free throws in overtime and finished 8-of-20 overall.
“One rebound. One free throw made. One less turnover. That’s why people love sports,” Legacy Christian coach Brad Newsome said. “It was a good game and I wish them all the luck. They can go far.”
The No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup for a sectional final was unique. But Newsome stressed he didn’t put the Knights in the same bracket as the Irish to go after them. He wanted the bracket that would lead to a Cincinnati area team in the district final, rather than – in all likelihood – a team from the Midwest Athletic Conference or Shelby County League.
“We didn’t go after anybody,” Newsome said. “Whoever went toward the Cincinnati bracket that’s where we were headed. I felt like both teams wanted to go to Cincinnati so it lined up that way.”
Dunn led Catholic Central with 11 points. Junior Peyton Harris added nine points, senior Trey Brown, junior Sabien Doolittle and Eichie had six each. Woeber added four.