The South Central boys basketball team had not won a district championship in 45 years. The Trojans 0-4 in district title games since, and led Colonel Crawford in Friday’s Division IV championship game by a 35-31 score midway through the fourth quarter.
It was then junior standout Simon Blair took the Trojans to the finish line. He had three consecutive driving layups to the basket, blowing by the Crawford defense to break the game open in a 48-37 victory inside Robert L. Haas Gymnasium at Willard High School.
With the win, South Central (21-4) advanced to Tuesday’s 8 p.m. regional semifinal vs. New Middletown Springfield (21-5) at the Canton Fieldhouse.
The Trojans last won a district title with a 73-37 rout over Mansfield St. Peter’s in 1974, when Terry Hunt was the coach and Tom Kramb starred. That team also played its regional game, a 57-53 loss to Dalton, at the same venue in Canton.
Blair, who had struggled shooting in the first half, simply put his head down and went to the rim down the stretch.
Crawford cut the South Central lead to 33-31 with 5:51 left on the game. Isaiah Seidel scored to give the Trojans a two-possession lead (35-31) with 4:54 left — then then they got a key stop.
With the ability to spread the floor, Blair found every lane to the rim. He had two driving layups in a 24-second span, giving the Trojans a 39-31 lead. After another empty Crawford possession, Blair got the ball back again and went to work.
Another slash to the rim with 2:50 left put South Central up 10 — and when the Eagles went to slow him on a fourth drive to the basket, he simply dumped it off to David Lamoreaux for an easy two points with 2:08 left.
“I didn’t shoot well the whole game, my teammates stepped up big time,” Blair said. “They made some shots and have been stepping up all tournament. Once we spaced the floor out and had the lead, we ran ‘up’, which is a space out motion.
“I knew they would be playing off because my teammates were making shots,” he added. “I drove as hard as I could, either to create a way in and get a little bit of a lead going into the last couple minutes of the game.”
The Trojans trailed 16-8 after one quarter, but head coach Brett Seidel felt there was little reason to worry. His team got four point-blank looks at the basket that just rimmed out.
“We got the ball to the front of the rim the first six possessions we had it,” he said. “We were right there at the rim and didn’t finish. If those go in, it changes the first quarter a little bit — but I thought we played similar throughout the entire game.
“But it was our defense that changed,” Seidel added. “We have up 16 in the first but only 21 over the last three quarters. It was the way we guarded. Our plan was to dig and play with active hands on their bigs and try to double (Jordan) Fenner as much as possible to get the ball out of his hands.”
After the slow first quarter, South Central surged ahead for good with a 10-0 scoring run to begin the second quarter. Sam Seidel and Alex Holland opened with back-to-back 3-pointers, Blair tied it on a short jumper — and Holland scored inside to give the Trojans an 18-16 lead at the 5:42 mark.
Crawford led 19-18 at the 3:45 mark of the second, but never had the lead again. Tycen Cooper scored for the Trojans, and Blair followed with another slash to the basket for two easy points and a 22-19 lead. He scored again one more time with 52.8 seconds left, which sent the Trojans into halftime with a 24-21 lead.
“We were up, and Simon had not shot well and David (Lamoreaux) sat almost the entire second quarter with foul trouble,” coach Seidel said. “Credit our guys who came in and played well against a bigger team while he was out.”
Isaiah Seidel opened the third quarter with a 3, then Holland scored again to give South Central a 29-21 lead.
But Crawford (21-4) had one more run in it. Three consecutive baskets, mainly because the Eagles crashed the boards for several offensive rebounds, trimmed the South Central lead to 29-27 with 1:26 left in the third quarter.
However, Seidel countered with a short baseline jumper to snap a nearly five-minute scoring drought, giving South Central a 31-27 lead entering the final eight minutes.
Isaiah Seidel then scored twice consecutively — with 7:11 left and with 4:54 left, pushing the lead back up to four both times after Crawford baskets. That set up the final sequence where Blair took over.
“My teammates hit shots early and I didn’t really get anything going,” said Isaiah, who finished with 10 points. “I got some open looks in the second half, but I give credit to my teammates for finding me.”
Blair finished with 16 points on 8-of-19 shooting, which was after a 3-of-13 effort in the first half. The looks to the rim opened up down the stretch.
“That was our plan coming in,” coach Seidel said. “We wanted to spread the floor on them because with their size and length, we wanted to bring them away from the basket — and it’s hard to keep Simon in front of you, I don’t care who you are.
“That was our plan, and Simon exploited it, finished at the rim with both hands and was able to find David on the last one,” he added.
Despite foul trouble, Lamoreaux finished with eight points and eight rebounds, while Alex Holland added nine points.
COLONEL CRAWFORD (21-4)
Chase Walker 4-0—8; Jordan Fenner 4-1–11; Gavin Feichtner 1-1—4; Zye Shipman 5-2—12; Reis Walker 0-2—2. TOTALS 14-6—37.
SOUTH CENTRAL (21-4)
Simon Blair 8-0—16; Alex Holland 4-0—9; David Lamoreaux 4-0—9; Isaiah Seidel 4-1—10; Tycen Cooper 1-0—2; Sam Seidel 1-0—3. TOTALS 20-5—48.
Col. Crawford 16 5 6 10 — 37
South Central 8 16 7 17 — 48
3-point FGs: (CC) Fenner 2, Feichtner; (SC) Holland, I. Seidel, S. Seidel
South Central district tournament history (8-10)
March 6, 1974: beat SMCC, 73-56 (semifinals)
March 9, 1974: beat Mansfield St. Peter’s, 73-37 (title game)
March 1, 1978: beat Tiffin Calvert, 59-55 (semifinals)
March 4, 1978: lost to Mansfield St. Peter’s, 83-46 (title game)
March 11, 1981: lost to Buckeye Central, 49-42 (semifinals)
March 11, 1982: lost to Buckeye Central, 47-43 (semifinals)
March 9, 1983: lost to Buckeye Central, 71-47 (semifinals)
March 1, 1989: beat Fremont SJCC, 78-75 (semifinals)
March 4, 1989: lost to Tiffin Calvert, 70-53 (title game)
March 8, 1995: beat Buckeye Central, 67-59 (semifinals)
March 11, 1995: lost to Crestline, 70-63 (title game)
March 5, 1997: beat Crestline, 59-54 (semifinals)
March 7, 1997: lost to St. Paul, 57-56 (title game)
March 7, 2000: lost to Colonel Crawford, 49-42 (semifinals)
March 8, 2011: lost to Bucyrus Wynford, 64-57, OT (semifinals)
March 7, 2017: lost to Mansfield St. Peter’s, 79-41 (semifinals)
March 5, 2019: beat Margaretta, 57-53, OT (semifinals)
March 8, 2019: beat Colonel Crawford, 48-37 (title game)