Middletown Christian School’s boys basketball team is heading to the Division IV district finals for the second time in three years.
How the Eagles reached that point … well, that requires a bit more explanation. And maybe some aspirin.
MCS captured a sectional championship by outlasting Cincinnati College Prep Academy 101-99 in overtime in a wild, up-and-down affair that had the crowd at Taylor’s gym howling Saturday night.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Lakota West 53, Fairmont 29
“It was nonstop intensity from beginning to end and very physical, one of the most physical games I’ve ever played,” said Eagles senior forward Jarod Hamlin, who racked up a career-high 31 points and 20 rebounds. “I’m kind of in disbelief right now. Just a crazy game.”
First-year Middletown Christian coach Jason Crider was emotionally spent after watching his squad earn a district berth with a 6-18 record.
“All glory to God is all I can say,” Crider said. “From Day 1, I felt God led me here for a purpose, and we’re seeing some of that unfold. This is pretty miraculous, but I’ll take it.”
Dre Shores had a career-best scoring night with 29 points and added 16 boards for seventh-seeded MCS. C.J. Money tossed in 21 points.
The Eagles will travel to the University of Dayton Arena to face Fort Loramie for a district championship Friday at 9:30 p.m.
“It’s a credit to the kids’ belief and buying in and trusting the process,” Crider said. “I’m extremely proud of them. I never thought in a million years I’d have to coach a team to put up 101 points to win, but I never thought we’d give up 99 either.”
CCPA (10-14) got the frantic, sometimes out-of-control pace it wanted and rallied from a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 91 heading into overtime.
The sixth-seeded Lions put up an incredible 38 points in the last period and had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but couldn’t get a shot in the lane to fall.
“We missed a lot of free throws, and at the end of the day, it cost us,” said CCPA coach Demond Hairston, whose team was 18 of 29 at the line. “I take full responsibility for it as a coach. We should spend a little more time knocking those free throws down.”
Middletown Christian missed even more free throws (19 of 37) and piled up 33 turnovers. Crider didn’t think his team could play at CCPA’s pace coming into the contest and had a halfcourt game plan, but it didn’t last very long.
“Our first four or five possessions, we went right down the middle for some nice shots,” Crider said. “I told my coaches, ‘I actually think we can run with this team.’ I called a timeout and said, ‘Guys, the game plan’s changed. We’re going to run-and-gun this team.’ ”
The Eagles never trailed in overtime, but needed an offensive rebound by Shores off his own missed free throw with 1.8 seconds remaining to seal the win.
RonJon Patterson poured in 39 points for the Lions. He was joined in double figures by DaQuan Crutchfield (18), Mylan Hall (16) and Shamon McDavis (14).
“We watched film and knew they weren’t going to come out and play our tempo, but we didn’t get back on defense and allowed a couple outlet passes to get behind us,” Hairston said. “I knew that my guys were ready for that pace the whole way. That’s the style of game we play. We stay in games to the end. You literally have to push us off the floor.”
Crider conceded that turnovers at crunch time have been a problem for his squad this year. He also credited CCPA, which had 18 turnovers, for its breakneck mentality.
“They do what they do, and they do it extremely well,” Crider said. “It’s one of those games where I feel for them. It’s heartbreaking to lose. It’s also one of those games where it feels 10 times better to win when you’ve got every opportunity not to.
“That’s a game that would’ve haunted me all offseason if we changed our game plan around and ended up bombing. Who knows what would’ve happened if we stuck to our game plan?”
Hamlin described the matchup as “one of the funnest games I’ve ever played.” He was also exhausted when it was over.
“That bus ride home is going to be nap time,” Hamlin said.
Alan Holtrey and Koen Yee both contributed 7 points for the Eagles, and Yee grabbed five rebounds. Crutchfield and Stanley Robinson pulled down 14 and 10 boards, respectively, for CCPA.
The Lions’ Patterson is a senior. Hairston said he’d love to see him get a shot to play in college.
“Anybody that’s out there looking for a point guard, he’s got the GPA, he’s a qualifier,” Hairston said. “He’s ready to go.”
The Eagles will be looking for a better outcome in their second trip to the district tourney. In 2016, MCS lost to Yellow Springs 66-24.
Middletown Christian 21-24-19-27-10—101
CINCINNATI COLLEGE PREP ACADEMY (10-14): Mylan Hall 6 2 16, RonJon Patterson 12 12 39, Shamon McDavis 4 4 14, Obie Houston 4 0 8, Shalo Jarrett 1 0 2, Stanley Robinson 1 0 2, DaQuan Crutchfield 9 0 18. Totals: 37-18-99
MIDDLETOWN CHRISTIAN (6-18): Dre Shores 12 4 29, Seth Wolfenbarger 1 0 2, C.J. Money 7 4 21, Koen Yee 3 1 7, Jarod Hamlin 11 9 31, Alan Holtrey 2 1 7, Jeremy Lindenschmidt 1 0 2, Charlie Pagnard 1 0 2. Totals: 38-19-101
3-pointers: C 7 (Patterson 3, Hall 2, McDavis 2), M 6 (Money 3, Holtrey 2, Shores)