“I’m glad to be a part of our first time being here,” Cincinnati Christian senior guard Elijah Taylor said. “That’s been the plan for this senior class for the past four years.
“Last year it hurt to lose at districts, but this year, the bounce-back feeling is great. The plan is to win this next game and go to OSU and take care of business there too. I’d like to cut down some more nets, bring another banner home.”
This matchup has teams with very similar styles. Both want to play up-tempo, pressure basketball and have the athletes to do it.
The Commodores are averaging 76.4 points per game. The Cougars are averaging 65.2.
“They really remind me of Clark, North College Hill, Shroder,” Woods said. “Both teams are capable of scoring, but I don’t think anyone wants a game in the 80s because that means both teams aren’t playing very good defense. I’m sure the crowd would love it, but I don’t think either coach would find it acceptable or be enthused about just going back and forth.”
Perry, the Northwest Central Conference champion, is on a 19-game winning streak. The Commodores suffered consecutive losses to Lima Shawnee, Van Wert and Wapakoneta in late December.
The all-senior starting lineup for Perry includes 5-foot-10 Jakoby Lane-Harvey and Plummie Gardner, 6-0 Orion Monford, 6-2 LaMonte’ Nichols and 6-4 Kobe Glover.
Monford, Lane-Harvey (the point guard) and Glover are all averaging about 16 points per game. Gardner is scoring around 10.
“It’s all based around our defense,” 10th-year Commodores coach Matt Tabler said. “We like to play a pressure defense, no matter whether we’re playing halfcourt or fullcourt. Offensively, we’re looking to transition and push the ball up and down the floor.
“We have pretty good team speed, but I think we can go at two speeds. We can slow it down, but we also can go at a fast pace. How the game is being dictated is how we’ll play.”
Perry scrimmaged CCS for a quarter in a preseason event at Fort Loramie. The Cougars earned a slight edge on the scoreboard.
“They got after us, we got after them,” Woods said. “It was two evenly matched teams.”
Tabler admitted this week has been somewhat surreal. The Commodores have reached new heights while in a state of grief — assistant coach Herb Lane was killed in an automobile accident Monday.
“You have a wide range of emotions in the locker room,” said Tabler, noting that Lane’s visitation services will be held this weekend and the funeral is set for Monday in the PHS gym. “We had one kid smiling because he was so happy we won (Tuesday), but we had a kid beside him bawling because we lost Coach Lane.
“Everybody deals with grief differently. We just keep telling our kids to make sure they continue to pray and put all this in God’s hands because without God, without your religion and faith, you have nothing. We’ll keep leaning on that as we move forward.”
Woods conceded that if Cincinnati Christian was out of the tournament, he’d be rooting for Perry. But the Cougars are still here, and opportunities like this don’t come along every day.
“As I told our guys, we set high goals and expectations for them, and to see them come to fruition is amazing,” Woods said. “We’re starting to taste that feel of, ‘Hey we really could pull this off and really put this school on the map.’ My dream when I first took over this program was to build something special here, something the school would be proud of from an athletic standpoint.”
This season hasn’t been all smooth sailing. CCS has reeled off 10 straight victories, but that streak was preceded by back-to-back-to-back defeats. The last was a 63-59 loss at Cincinnati Country Day on Feb. 2.
“In the beginning of the year, we dealt with a lot of internal turmoil,” Woods said. “We had a theme of ‘Own Your Role’ and ‘We Is Greater Than Me.’ Some kids accepted that, some kids did not, so we had a little struggle there for a while trying to find our true identity.
“We were winning back then, but I felt like we weren’t playing well. After that CCD game, something clicked for those guys. We had a heart-to-heart, they had a couple player-only meetings, they hashed some things out, and it’s been a whole different ballteam since then.”
Cincinnati Christian’s starting lineup remains the same with four seniors — 6-1 Dylan Woods, 6-3 Christian Keese, 6-2 Brady Roberts and 6-1 Josh Oates — and 6-2 freshman Cameron Rogers. Woods (14.1), Keese (11.6) and Roberts (8.0) are the top scorers.
What: Division IV regional final, Cincinnati Christian (22-5) vs. Lima Perry (23-3)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Fairmont High School's Trent Arena, 3301 Shroyer Road, Kettering
Next: Winner advances to a state semifinal Thursday at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus, facing either Portsmouth Clay or Columbus Wellington at 8:30 p.m.