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Willard wins 14th straight — and share of SBC Bay title

By JOSH MORGRET • Feb 22, 2019 at 11:30 PM

HURON — It had been a long time since Willard was even able to say it was playing for a league championship.

13 years to be exact before Friday's game at Huron.

Cooper Parrott scored 31 points to lead the Flashes to a 58-41 Sandusky Bay Conference Bay division victory, clinching a share of the league title with Vermilion.

"It went from about as bad as it could be last year to tonight," second-year coach Joe Bedingfield said. "This is all for the kids."

It is Willard's first league title since winning the Northern Ohio League in the 2005-2006. That team also won a district title before falling in a regional championship game. This year's team started 5-3 and was two full games behind Vermilion in the league standings when they went to Vermilion and knocked off the Sailors two weeks ago.

"We were 5-3, but we really did not look at our record too much, especially that early in the year," Bedingfield said. "Coach (Bob) Haas said something about every game being a championship game after the Vermilion loss (Jan. 3) and that is how we treated it."

After winning just 17 total games over the past three seasons, the Flashes improve to 19-3 overall this season and 10-2 in the SBC Bay. Vermilion finished 17-5, 10-2.

"The mistake we make sometimes as coaches is we make it bigger than it is," Bedingfield said. "The only thing I told the kids before the game was they had an opportunity to play in this big game. We had to go back to having fun. I think sometimes we over-complicate things as coaches."

Willard wasted little time jumping on the Tigers (10-10, 7-5). After Matthew Hurst opened the game with a 3 for Huron, the Flashes scored the next 14 points. Parrott hit two 3s, made four free throws, and stole a pass that led to an easy hoop for Terry Balridge during the run.

Nic Ritzler scored for Huron, but Parrott canned his third 3-pointer of the quarter as Willard took a 17-5 lead after one quarter.

"It was a championship game for us," said Parrott, who just missed his season-high of 32 points that came against Carey. "We wanted to take it to them and in the first quarter, we did just that."

The Flashes extended the lead to as many as 14 points in the second quarter after Parrott assisted on a Davon Triplett layup. Once Huron settled in and adjusted to what Willard was doing, the Tigers got going and played better.

Drew Wennes and Joey Brown scored consecutive buckets and later, Wennes scored on an offensive rebound and then hit a triple to cut the lead to 23-17. Parrott put in two more free throws, but Cole Parker connected on a 3 and then stole a pass moments later and took it in for a layup. To make things worse for Willard, the Tigers stole another pass, trailing 25-22.

"It looked like we were a little bit shellshocked early," Huron coach Bobby James said. "The kids did a nice job of getting back in the game. We played hard. I do not think we did a good job in the first quarter. We played into Willard's game a bit."

But, Triplett and Parrott restored order for the Flashes. Triplett picked off a pass and went coast-to-coast for a layup that he nearly dunk. Then, after an empty possession for Huron, Parrott connected on another 3 to help Willard to a 32-24 lead at halftime.

Wennes opened the third quarter scoring to get the Tigers within six points, but that was the closest they gott. Brevon Polachek converted a 3-point play and Parrott made a 3 for a 38-28 lead.

Nic Ritzler scored down low for Huron, but Parrott perhaps hit his biggest shot of the game — his sixth 3-pointer of the game — and he was fouled. His free throw, as well as a turn-around jumper made by Baldridge extended the lead to 44-30.

"Cooper is (the best player in the district)," Bedingfield said. "He showed it tonight in the biggest moments and that is what the good ones do. He makes us look smarter as coaches than we are."

Jimmy Harkelroad scored on an offensive rebound to halt the Willard run, but only briefly. Parrott hit a fade-away jumper and Baldridge scored down low to give the Flashes a 48-32 lead after three quarters.

"When we got back into our half-court defense, it was just lock down," Bedingfield said. "We did not want to play tight. The kids played loose and they played to have fun."

Willard put an emphatic slam on the game in the fourth quarter. Still leading by 16, Baldridge stepped in front of a pass and ran away for a thunderous one-handed slam dunk. Later, Myles Pinkston did the same thing, slamming away the Tigers and winning the 14th game in a row for Willard.

"Willard is a good team," James said. "I have said it before — I think that they are a regional team. They are really good. They have gotten so much better from the first time we played them (77-60 Willard win on Jan. 11) until now."

The Flashes committed just eight turnovers in the game — two in each quarter.

"If you do that, you are going to win a lot of games," Bedingfield said. "When you value the ball, rebound, and defend the way we did, we are going to win a lot of basketball games like that."

Polachek added nine points while Baldridge had eight points and seven rebounds. Triplett tallied six points and six rebounds, and Pinkston grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.


WILLARD (19-3, 10-2)

Brevon Polachek 3-3—9, Terry Baldridge 4-0—8, Myles Pinkston 1-0—2, Davon Triplett 3-0—6, Cooper Parrott 9-7—31, Joey Holida 1-0—2. TOTALS 21-10—58.

HURON (10-10, 7-5)

Matthew Hurst 3-0—7, Casey Scroggins 0-1—1, Drew Wennes 5-0—11, Joey Brown 3-2—8, Nic Ritzler 2-0—4, Cole Parker 2-1—6, Jimmy Harkelroad 2-0—4. TOTALS 17-4—41.

Willard 17 15 16 10 — 58

Huron   5  19  8   9  — 41

3-point FGs: (W) Parrott 6; (H) Hurst, Wennes, Parker