Defenders roll to OCSAA state final

By Paul Boggs -

Ohio Valley Christian’s Marshall Hood drives around Calvary Christian’s Josh Kilgore during Friday night’s OCSAA boys basketball state semifinal at Ohio Christian University.

CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — By relying on the ‘Marshall’ plan throughout, and by calling upon some ‘zonebusters’ in the second half, the Ohio Valley Christian School boys basketball team has officially punched its ticket to the state title tilt.

That’s because, on Friday night, the Defenders’ Marshall Hood carved up Calvary Christian for 27 points —while OVCS amassed another 21 off of seven three-point goals.

The end result was Ohio Valley Christian capturing an Ohio Christian School Athletic Association state semifinal victory, as the Defenders rolled the CCS Spartans 61-39 inside the Maxwell Center on the campus of Ohio Christian University in Circleville.

Indeed, Hood had the hot hand with nine field goals and a perfect 9-of-9 free throws, while the Defenders shot a sizzling 70-percent (7-of-10) from outside the three-point arc.

With the win, the Defenders —playing in their fourth consecutive OCSAA state tournament — raised their record to 20-6, while more importantly advancing to the state championship game on Saturday.

The Defenders finished third in last year’s state tourney, but were playing for the OCSAA state title on Saturday (Feb. 27) at 5 p.m.

Ohio Valley Christian was set to play Temple Christian Dayton in the title bout, as TC Dayton rallied from a five-point fourth-quarter deficit, defeating Temple Christian Mansfield 60-58 in Friday’s first semifinal.

But while the Tigers had to expend energy in charging back, the Defenders did not — jump-started by a 9-0 run to end the first half and break a 17-17 tie with two minutes and 44 seconds remaining.

The Defenders then torched the Spartans for five third-quarter three-pointers, boosting their lead to 42-22, as Hood hit 6-of-6 free throws in the frame.

While Calvary Christian scored the period’s final seven points, they only netted nine in the fourth quarter —while OVCS expanded its lead to as large as 61-37 with only 2:20 to play.

Ohio Valley Christian coach Steve Rice said the final 18 minutes and 25 seconds, in which the Defenders looked spectacular, was what he had hoped for.

“We started out pretty cold and weren’t hitting our shots or playing a lot of defense or boxing out. We came out pretty flat to be honest. But we turned it on with a couple of minutes left in the second quarter and really took control of the game,” said Rice. “I was really happy with about the last 20 minutes of the game.”

Rice was also happy about having Hood on his squad.

Hood had three field goals in a row in a span of a minute and 10 seconds in the fourth period, capping off a dominating performance in which he also grabbed double-digits in rebounds.

Officially, Hood — the tallest player on the floor Friday night at six-foot five-inches tall — was 9-of-11 from the field.

He had five field goals in the first half, and 3-of-3 foul shots, scoring six straight points to break the 17-17 tie.

That followed five straight points, including an old-fashioned three-point play, in the opening quarter that helped erase the Spartans’ largest lead at 7-4.

Hood also blocked four shots on the defensive end.

Simply put, the smaller Spartans playing Hood was a mismatch, as Grant Criner picked up two early fouls face-guarding him.

“Marshall has worked really hard over the last four years and it paid off tonight. He is definitely a mismatch in our favor and he is playing as well as he has played all year,” said Rice. “They played a box-and-one on him early. They tried to push him around as much as possible. Ultimately, he got a lot of putbacks. When they went full man-to-man (defense) on him, we got the ball in the post as much as possible. He took care of the rest.”

He, and the remainder of the Defenders draining seven three-pointers in the final 16 minutes and two seconds.

Justin Sizemore started the barrage, drilling a three from the right wing only 48 seconds into the second stanza — and breaking the game’s second tie at 12-12.

With OVCS ahead 23-17, Austin Ragan rained in a trey to beat the halftime buzzer, capping off a possession in which the Defenders milked nearly a minute off the clock.

In the third quarter, Calvary Christian came within seven points twice (26-19 and 29-22) in the opening 3:10, but two triples apiece by Ragan and Elijah McDonald made it 42-22 exactly 3:06 later.

Ragan bagged his second trey to make it 29-19, McDonald made his pair sandwiched around his two-point goal, and then Ragan nailed his third that almost resulted in a four-point play.

Finally, following seven Spartan points that ended the third frame, Sizemore sank his second just 13 seconds into the fourth.

“Knocking down those outside shots is always big for us,” said Rice. “That opens up the middle for us, and once Austin (Ragan) and Elijah (McDonald) and Justin (Sizemore) made a couple, we opened up the middle a lot for Marshall in the second half.”

Those long-range baskets also took pressure off of the Defender defense, which held Calvary Christian scoreless for three minutes and 20 seconds.

In all, it was a 13-0 spurt over three-and-a-half minutes.

In the fourth quarter, trailing 55-37, the Spartans endured a drought of 2:52, eclipsing the dry spell of the final 2:44 of the second stanza.

“In the first half, we weren’t rotating (on defense) quickly. In the second half, we rotated and boxed out much better,” said Rice. “In the final 20 minutes, we controlled both ends of the floor.”

Besides’ Hood’s 27, Ragan racked up 16 points on three twos, three threes and a first-quarter free throw.

Justin Beaver bucketed a first-quarter field goal, as Dillon Ragan registered a pair of second-period foul shots.

Josh Kilgore led the Spartans with 11 points, and was the only CCS player in double figures.

Daniel Wilt — with eight points — had a pair of first-quarter threes, part of the team’s four.

The Spartans shot six free throws, making five.

Calvary Christian, which played in Saturday’s consolation game, fell to 19-6 with Friday night’s loss.

The consolation game had featured the Defenders in their last three appearances, but not this year.

They were indeed playing for an OCSAA state championship, which Rice was convinced his club needed to win.

“This is our fourth Final Four in a row, so we feel like we need to take care of business and get this one,” he said. “We’ve had third-place and fourth-place, so it’s time to win it. Hopefully, things work out this time.”

Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106

Ohio Valley Christian’s Marshall Hood drives around Calvary Christian’s Josh Kilgore during Friday night’s OCSAA boys basketball state semifinal at Ohio Christian University. Valley Christian’s Marshall Hood drives around Calvary Christian’s Josh Kilgore during Friday night’s OCSAA boys basketball state semifinal at Ohio Christian University.

By Paul Boggs