Gliding on cruise control during an impressive postseason run, that all changed for Trotwood-Madison in Saturday’s Division II boys basketball regional final.
“This was great for us,” Rams coach Rocky Rockhold admitted following an 84-74 defeat of Cincinnati Hughes at Fairmont’s Trent Arena. “We knew this was going to be a war. I texted the guys (Saturday) morning and said, ‘Eat your Wheaties, because this is going to be a dog fight,’ and it was.”
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Trotwood (25-3) qualifies for the D-II state final four for the second straight season. The Rams will play Byesville Meadowbrook (22-6) in a D-II state semifinal at 10:45 a.m. Friday at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center in Columbus. Meadowbrook, coming out of the Athens regional, advanced with a 36-31 defeat of New Concord John Glenn also on Saturday.
The other state semi will feature defending D-II state champ Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (19-8) against Lexington (23-5) at 2 p.m. Friday. The state semi winners advance to Saturday’s state championship at 5:15 p.m.
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Trotwood, in familiar blowout mode, raced to a 20-point lead late in the first half against Hughes and appeared destined for another lopsided win. Instead, the Big Red, out of the Cincinnati Metro Conference, regrouped and pushed the Rams like few other teams have done.
Benefitting from Trotwood’s free throw inaccuracy (23 of 45), Hughes cut its deficit to single digits in the fourth quarter but couldn’t finish its comeback bid.
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“They did a really great job of pressuring us and getting us out of our stuff,” said Hughes coach Bryan Wyant, who led the Big Red over the Rams in a 2013 D-II district final. “We got going a little too late.”
As usual, senior Myles Belyeu (24 points) and junior Amari Davis (18) led Trotwood offensively and also were major defensive factors, as wasjunior center Justin Stephens.
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“Amari is a great player,” said Belyeu, who intends to announce his college choice following the final four. “He’s the top junior in the state. We come together and it’s unstoppable.”
Rams’ sophomore Carl Blanton added 17 points.
Hughes (24-4) received 20 points apiece from Giovanni Santiago and D.J. Brewton and 18 more from A.J. Smith.
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It was the first game in six postseason matchups the Rams didn’t post a blowout win. Trotwood will take an 18-game win streak into the final four, its fourth and all since the 2006 Rams were runner-up in D-I.
One of the most winningest programs among area big schools the last 20 years, Trotwood has never won a state title.
“Last year we were at this point and we didn’t finish it out,” said Davis, who remains uncommitted. “Now, we’re back and we’ve got to finish the job this year.”
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The Rams also are in contention for a rare football/basketball state-title double. Trotwood completed a 15-0 season by winning a D-III state football championship last December.