After six straight losses in district semifinals over the past 10 years, Willard can finally put one in the win column.
Davon Triplett scored 23 points and Cooper Parrott added 18 points as the Flashes topped Carey, 69-54, in a Division III district semifinal at Norwalk High School on Wednesday.
"We did not talk about that," said Willard coach Joe Bedingfield of the six straight losses in a district semifinal. "It says a lot about the kids."
Willard improved to 21-3, including 16 wins in a row, and will play Upper Sandusky (19-5) for the district championship on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. back at Norwalk. Upper Sandusky won the season opener on Nov. 30 in Willard, 83-59.
"I thought we came out ready to play," Bedingfield said. "The first quarter was good. We held them to nine points."
A 3-pointer by Casey Crawford drew the Blue Devils (15-9) within 51-47 with 4:06 left in the fourth quarter. But Parrott responded on the other end for Willard just 11 seconds later.
Hayden Stone split two free throws for Carey, but Parrott scored and Triplett added a 3-point play for a 59-48 lead with 2:26 left. The Blue Devils got as close as seven points at 61-54, but never any closer.
Parrott split two free throws and Brevon Polachek added two makes. Triplett scored twice late to finish off the game's scoring.
"Anytime you can put five guys on the floor that can score the basketball and make the other team defend all five guys - you can not key on one guy," Bedingfield said. "Cooper hit some big 3s for us. Brevon did a good job."
The Flashes used a run of eight straight points — buckets from four different players — to open a 15-7 lead in the first quarter. Stone hit two free throws though, getting Carey within six points after the first quarter.
Willard began to control the game early in the second quarter. A pull-up jumper by Parrott and score by Parrott after a Carey turnover opened the lead to 21-11. Stone scored for the Blue Devils, but a three-point play by Joey Holida made it 24-13.
"Parrott is the best player in the district," Carey coach Jamie Young said. "Triplett is a force inside. Once we got in foul trouble, it causes trouble."
Carey responded, cutting the lead down to six points on three different occasions, but Willard led, 29-22 at halftime.
"I was pretty happy going into halftime, holding them to 22 points," Bedingfield said. "I thought our double teams were effective. Carey was not hitting a lot of outside shots."
Griffin Summit hit a 3 to open the third quarter scoring for Carey and the Blue Devils got within 30-27 when Summit hit two free throws. Willard responded with a 3-point play by Triplett and a 3 from Parrott.
The Flashes maintained a 40-31 lead late in the third quarter when Carey pushed again. Summit scored, connected on a 3 and Jordan Dasher's bucket brought the Blue Devils within two points. Willard stole the momentum back though as a steal and score by Polachek gave the Flashes a 42-38 lead after three quarters.
"I think we went to a 1-3-1 zone at that point," Bedingfield said. "We were able to get out on the wings and bother them a bit. We got that huge steal to go up four and it swung momentum our way."
Triplett opened the fourth quarter scoring with two free throws after Stone picked up his fourth foul. Cade Crawford countered with a triple for the Blue Devils and later, Carey was within three points when Myles Pinkston split two free throws. After an empty possession by the Blue Devils, Terry Baldridge threw down a thunderous dunk and was fouled. He made the free throw for a 50-43 lead with 5:26 left.
"Once Hayden went out, they got more easy buckets around the hoop," Young said. "They are a good team. Joe has them playing really well... We did not come out the way we needed to at the beginning of the game."
Polachek added 14 points for the Flashes, who committed just 11 turnovers.
"We have not had a ton of close games late in the season," Bedingfield said. "We talked to the kids all week about this is the time of the year where you have to value each possession."
Stone finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds for Carey.
Hayden Stone 8-3—19, Isaiah Hoepf 0-2—2, Cade Crawford 3-1—8, Griffin Summit 6-2—16, Jordan Dasher 2-2—6, Casey Crawford 1-0—3. TOTALS 20-10—54.
Brevon Polachek 3-7—14, Terry Baldridge 3-2—8, Myles Pinkston 1-1—3, Davon Triplett 8-7—23, Cooper Parrott 6-4—18, Joey Holida 1-1—3. TOTALS 22-22—69.
Carey 9 13 16 16 — 54
Willard 15 14 13 27 — 69
3-point FGs: (C) Summit 2, Cad. Crawford, Cas. Crawford; (W) Parrott 2, Polachek