Having the experience of playing against taller opposition in the Mid-State League Buckeye Division during the regular-season made a difference for Logan Elm on Thursday in a 56-38 win over visiting Miami Trace in a Division II Southeast District sectional final.
The Panthers boasted the tallest interior the Braves will see in the district, led by 6-foot-8 Logan Rodgers and Andrew Guthrie and 6-6 Dylan Bernard.
Despite giving up between five to seven inches against the Panthers’ interior, the Braves out-rebounded their guests 20-8 over the first three quarters, including grabbing eight offensive rebounds.
“We talked coming into the game about how huge rebounding the basketball was going to be against Miami Trace’s length,” Logan Elm coach Doug Stiverson said. “We’ve rebounded as a team all season and that’s something we’ve only gotten better at from the beginning of the season until now.
“It helps to play in the MSL and see teams like Liberty Union, Teays Valley and Fairfield Union. That’s made us better and prepared us for a situation like (playing Miami Trace).”
The Braves forced Miami Trace into 11 turnovers during the first half by extending their defense and pressuring the basketball. Logan Elm also held Miami Trace without a field goal for eight minutes and 30 seconds during parts of the first and second quarters.
“Our guys played extremely hard defensively and I can’t say enough about the effort they played with,” Stiverson said. “We made it harder for Miami Trace to enter the ball into the post and when they were able to get it in, we made them work and contested everything.
“We’ve picked up our defensive pressure over the last six games, getting into the passing lanes and denying more than we did at the start of the season. That’s led to some transition buckets for our offense, so we don’t have to work for everything in the half-court.”
Stiverson singled out the play of 6-foot-1 senior Gabe Chalfin for his effort in helping to defend the Panthers’ interior game.
“Gabe was locked in and he didn’t give an inch,” he said. “He was very determined and played extremely well.”
The Braves (16-1) scored seven points off Miami Trace turnovers in the opening quarter on their way to building a 16-6 lead.
Tanner Holbert drained a pair of three-pointers, including one from the right corner to beat the buzzer, and Chalfin added five points.
“We did a great job of moving the basketball together and getting shots in the areas we like to shoot from,” Holbert said. “I knocked down my first shot in rhythm, hit another shot before the buzzer and I felt good shooting all night long.”
Holbert scored the first five points of the second quarter on a pair of free throws and his third of six three-pointers to extend the Braves’ lead to 21-6.
Back-to-back baskets from Cameron Moore and Hayden Hunter ended Miami Trace’s field goal drought and cut Logan Elm’s lead to 24-11, but Isaac Ward knocked down a runner coming off the right wing before the horn to send the Braves into halftime with a 26-11 advantage.
Six different players scored during the third quarter for the Braves, who were a lethal 9 of 10 from the field. Holbert connected on his final three triples of the evening and Ward chipped in six points, sending the Braves into the fourth quarter with a 50-25 lead.
Holbert poured in a game-high 20 points for the Braves on 6 of 10 shooting. Ward contributed 11 points, four rebounds and four assists and Chalfin amassed 11 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Rodgers had nine points to lead the Panthers (5-9), Guthrie had eight and Moore chipped in seven.
“We talked with Tanner this week about letting it rip and not being deterred to shoot it if you miss one and get another good look,” Stiverson said. “Miami Trace was helping off of Tanner and he stepped up and made them pay and shot the basketball with confidence.”
The Braves finished the evening 20 of 43 (46.5 percent) from the field, compared to the Panthers going 14 of 39 (35.9 percent).
“Miami Trace did a little of everything against us, playing a 2-3 zone, man and trying to extend and pressure us some, but our guys handled and moved the basketball pretty well and were unselfish,” Stiverson said.
The second-seeded Braves advance to a District semifinal and are slated to host seventh-seeded Unioto (15-5) next Thursday for a 7 p.m. tip-off. Unioto routed Athens 59-28 in its sectional final.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MT 6 5 14 13 — 38
LE 16 10 24 6 — 56
MIAMI TRACE — Logan Rodgers 1-7-9; Andrew Guthrie 4-0-8; Cameron Moore 2 (1)-0-7; Ethan Steele 3-0-6; Bo Little 0 (1)-0-3; Dylan Bernard 1-0-2; Hayden Hunter 1-0-2; Braden Osborne 0-1-1; Isaiah Reisinger 0-0-0; Cyrus Keplinger 0-0-0; Keegan Terry 0-0-0. TOTALS — 12 (2)-8-38. Free throw shooting: 8 of 12 for 67 percent. Three-point field goals: Moore, Little. Field goal shooting: 14 of 40 for 35 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 2 of 9 for 22 percent. Rebounds: 22 (8 offensive). Assists: 4. Steals: 11. Blocked shots: 2. Turnovers: 15. Personal fouls: 8. Bench points: 19. Second chance points: 10. Points off turnovers: 4.
LOGAN ELM — Tanner Holbert 0 (6)-2-20; Isaac Ward 3 (1)-2-11; Gabe Chalfin 2 (2)-1-11; Braylen Baker 1 (1)-1-6; Jason Sailor 2-0-4; Trace Smith 1-0-2; David Harden 1-0-2; Jeremy Weitleman 0-0-0; Xavier Kellough 0-0-0; Landon Long 0-0-0; Konnor Starkey 0-0-0; Garret Summers 0-0-0; Drew Tomlison 0-0-0. TOTALS — 10 (10)-6-56. Free throw shooting: 6 of 8 for 75 percent. Three-point field goals: Holbert, 6; Chalfin, 2; Ward, Baker. Field goal shooting: 20 of 42 for 47 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 10 of 22 for 45 percent. Rebounds: 23 (7 offensive). Assists: 11. Steals: 8. Blocked shots: 1. Turnovers: 13. Personal fouls: 10. Bench points: 28. Second chance points: 2. Points off turnovers: 17.
Statistics provided all season long by Cory Patton
Brad Morris is the co-founder of the Pickaway County sports website sportingpumpkin.com.