Four area teams in district semifinal play this week

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Mar 5, 2019 at 4:15 AM

The next step in the tournament trail is upon four area boys basketball teams, beginning tonight.

In Division IV, South Central (19-4) is back in the district semifinals after missing out last season. The Trojans will face Margaretta (17-6) at 6:15 p.m. tonight at the Robert L. Haas Gymnasium at Willard High School.

With a win, South Central will play for a district championship for the first time in 21 seasons (1996-97), when it fell to eventual state semifinalist and Firelands Conference foe St. Paul by a point (57-56).

During the regular season, South Central lost twice to Western Reserve (17-4) to finish in second place in the FC. The Trojans also fell to Division II state-ranked Norwalk (21-3) and Div. III Apple Creek Waynedale (17-7) in non-league play.

South Central is led by junior guard Simon Blair, who scored a game-high 35 points in last Friday’s 65-60 comeback win over St. Mary Central Catholic in a sectional title game at Shelby High School.

Blair averaged 20.9 points per game, along with 3.6 rebounds, 3.3 steals and three assists per contest in the regular season. David Lamoreaux adds 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, while Isaiah Seidel averages 9.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Over the past five seasons, South Central is 79-35 overall.

Meanwhile, the Polar Bears are down to Div. IV for the first time. A year ago, Margaretta outlasted longtime Sandusky Bay Conference rival Huron in six overtimes in a district semifinal before falling to Carey in a Div. III district title game at Norwalk High School.

Defensively, Margaretta was the top team in the SBC Bay Division in terms of points allowed at 46.3 points per game. Guard Dylan Morris, who hit the game-winning shot in the six-overtime win last March, leads the way for the Bears in scoring at 14.5 per game.

Nick Leibacher adds 12 points and 3.3 assists per game, while post Mitch Raifsnider averages 14.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest.

Margaretta lost twice to SBC Bay co-champion and Div. II district semifinalist Vermilion (18-5), split with the other league co champ Willard (20-3), Huron (11-11) along with SBC Lake foes Clyde (13-10) and Perkins (13-11).

The winner of tonight’s game will return at 7 p.m. Friday to face the winner of tonight’s second game between Lucas (19-5) and Colonel Crawford (20-3).



Norwalk (21-3) vs. Ontario (16-8)

MADISON TWP. — Few could have envisioned this rematch in Wednesday’s 8 p.m. district semifinal at Mansfield Madison High School back on Jan. 26.

That is when the Warriors left Norwalk with a 62-44 non-league loss that dropped them to 6-7 overall.

But Ontario hasn’t looked back since, winning 10 of 11 games — including last Friday’s 45-41 upset win over Lexington (17-6) in a sectional championship game at Willard High School.

The Warriors’ lone loss in their hot streak was a 52-49 home setback to Mansfield Senior (19-4), which faces Vermilion in Wednesday’s 6:15 p.m. matchup at Madison.

Norwalk enters the game after winning a pair of third meetings over SBC Lake foes Tiffin Columbian and Perkins in sectional play. The No. 1-seed in the district, the Truckers beat the Tornadoes, 57-51, then beat the Pirates, 59-41, in the sectional final at Willard.

In the two victories, SBC Lake and District 6 Player of the Year Brandon Haraway averaged 25.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals. In the regular season matchup vs. Ontario, Haraway had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds, with Garrett Chapin adding 14 points and 13 rebounds.

Norwalk — ranked No. 14 in the final Associated Press state poll — is making its first district appearance since 2014 and the 23rd all-time in program history, which includes nine in 18 years under head coach Steve Gray.

Gray and Ontario head coach Joe Balogh have combined for just under 1,000 wins (994). Saturday’s district championship game is slated for 2 p.m. back at Madison.



Willard (20-3) vs. Carey (15-8)

NORWALK — The Crimson Flashes are the hottest team in the area, entering Wednesday’s 6:15 p.m. Div. III district semifinal vs. the Blue Devils on a 15-game winning streak.

Willard — the top seed in the Norwalk district — hasn’t lost since a 69-53 setback to Vermilion on Jan. 3. The win streak has led the Flashes to their first league championship in 13 seasons, and now with a win on Wednesday, can play for their first district title in 13 years as well.

Wednesday’s game is seventh district semifinal appearance for the Crimson Flashes in the past decade, but they’re on a six-game losing skid in the round entering the matchup.

Willard and No. 4-seeded Carey also met early in the regular season in non-league play, with the Flashes winning on the road, 66-62. Willard led throughout the game, building a 43-34 halftime lead as Cooper Parrott finished with a career-high 32 points.

Carey is led by 6-foot-8 junior center Hayden Stone, who averages 18 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Stone, who scored 14 points in the loss to Willard, also blocks 2.2 shots per contest.

A first-team SBC Bay and District 6 POY, Parrott averaged 18.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.6 steals per game for the Flashes. Davon Triplett adds 11.5 points and 6.6 rebounds, while Terry Baldridge averages 10.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.


Western Reserve (17-4) vs. Upper Sandusky (18-5)

NORWALK — The nightcap on Wednesday in the 8 p.m. game at Norwalk features two teams who like to shoot the ball with a high level of frequency from the outside.

The No. 3-seeded Roughriders are a three-point heavy shooting team, while the No. 2 seed Rams play at a fast, uptempo pace.

Western Reserve ran the table in league play to finish as Firelands Conference champions, advancing to Wednesday with a 42-35 win over Huron in a Div. III sectional title game at Monroeville. During the regular season, Western lost at Huron, 44-42, on Jan. 13.

Luke Rowlinson averages 13.2 points per game for the ‘Riders, while John Skrada adds 11.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per contest. Between the two guards alone, Rowlinson and Skrada are 86 of 239 from the three-point line, averaging out to 4 of 12 attempts from deep per game.

Western is down three starters from the start of the season, including two players lost to injury.

The Rams enter the game off yet another strong regular season. Upper is 112-30 in six seasons under head coach Jeff Winslow, a Monroeville graduate and former assistant with Sheldon at Western.

Upper is led by 6-3 junior forward Mason Vent (17.9 points, 5.0 rebounds) and junior guard Cameron McCreary (10.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 3.7 steals).

Saturday’s district title game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. back at Norwalk High School.