At the end of the first half of the Trojans’ Division IV sectional championship game Friday, the coach put that relationship to task. The two shared a few exchanges during foul shots relating to Blair’s shot selection in a first half that saw St. Mary Central Catholic dominate the second quarter to take a 10-point lead to the locker room.
Blair listened, took his coach’s advice and showed why he was voted the OHSBCA District 6 Player of the Year in the second half, scoring 26 of his career-high 35 points to lead South Central to a come-from-behind 65-60 win at Shelby High School.
The Trojans (19-4) will face Margaretta — a 57-39 winner over Mansfield St. Peter’s — in the district semifinals at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday at Willard.
“I was forcing in the first half and it wasn’t working, and it wasn’t the way to play,” Blair said. “So I started involving my teammates more in the second half, which worked great all-around for us.”
That mentality flipped when Blair’s coach was able to reach him at a crucial moment.
“Goes without saying, but I love (Blair) like a son, having known him forever,” Seidel said. “It was a moment where I needed to get into him. I think he felt the pressure that he had to do it all himself, being the phenomenal player he is, but that’s not what we had been doing the whole year to be successful.
“He was settling a lot in the opening half, shot some uncharacteristic shots and with (Myles) Bruno going off, he probably felt like he had to match him.”
Blair’s pull-up jumper with 1:13 remaining cut the Panthers’ lead to 58-57. Following an SMCC miss, Evan Legg got the ball to Blair on the right side. He took it all the way to rim, scoring and drawing an and-one to put the Trojans up 60-58 with 48 seconds to go.
The Panthers got the ball to Bruno, who had a team-high 19 points, but his 3-pointer was deflected and ended up in South Central’s possession. Blair then sank two foul shots to make it 62-58 with 24 seconds on the clock.
Nate Roesch made a layup to cut the Trojans’ advantage to two with 23 seconds left, but two Isaiah Seidel foul shots with 18 seconds to go ended the Panthers’ threat.
“He’s district player of the year for a reason,” SMCC coach Chris Ceccoli said of Blair. “He did a lot of good things in that second half. But I also thought, defensively, we did some good things to kind of keep him in check during that first half.”
The Trojans led 16-13 after a seesaw first eight minutes.
Bruno ignited a 13-4 run to end the half, giving the Panthers a 34-24 advantage. The junior point guard was 6-for-8 from the field in the opening half, including a perfect 5-for-5 in the second as he scored 15 first-half points.
On the opposite end, the Trojans were just 1 of 12 from the field in the second quarter.
“Our goal was to get the ball out of Bruno’s hands as much as possible in that second half,” Brett Seidel said. “We tried to make one of their other players beat us.
“Our preparation going into the game was to take away (Roesch). Simon has done such a great job all year on the other team’s guard.”
Roesch, the Sandusky Bay Conference River Division’s Most Outstanding Performer, finished with nine points and nine boards, but didn’t score until midway through the third quarter.
“Nate still had an impact on the glass, and Jordan (Jude) did a good job on the boards,” Ceccoli said. “Down the stretch, it was just a matter of execution when it’s a dogfight like that going back-and-forth. There’s a couple possessions in there I wish we’d of had back.”
Roesch’s and-one pushed the Panthers’ lead to 39-31 early in the third. His layup off an inbounds play made it 50-41 in favor of SMCC with seven minutes to go.
Blair would score 10 of the next 12 Trojan points to get them in striking distance.
“We were all really focused to come out in the second half,” Blair said. “Our motto all year has been ‘Believe!’ That’s something we preach all the time and it’s really worked out for us.
“Hopefully, we’ll keep believing and keep advancing.”
ST. MARY CC (17-6)
Cole Kromer 3-5—11, Dylan Christian 3-2—9, Jordan Jude 3-3—9, Myles Bruno 8-0—19, Michael Capizzi 1-0—2, Luke Ceccoli 0-1—1, Nate Roesch 4-1—9. TOTALS 22-12—60.
SOUTH CENTRAL (19-4)
Simon Blair 13-6—35, Sam Seidel 3-2—11, Alex Holland 2-1—5, David Lamoreaux 2-3—7, Isaiah Seidel 1-2—4, Evan Legg 1-0—3. TOTALS 22 14—65.
SMCC 13 21 12 14 — 60
S. Central 16 8 15 26 — 65
3-point FGs: (SC) Blair 3, S. Seidel 3, Legg; (STM) Bruno 3, Christian