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“We just told the kids we are only the third team in Madison history to win 20 games,” Smith said. “We beat a lot of great teams and made a lot of great things happen. I hate it for the team, but it was a very rewarding season.”
National Trail, the No. 6 seed, improved to 19-5 and now faces Purcell Marian for a district championship at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 10, at the University of Dayton Arena.
Madison bids farewell to seniors Levi McMonigle, Ryan Duritsch, Cameron Morgan, Evan Crim and Mason Whiteman.
“It was a special class,” Smith said. “This class went 39-9. They were special.”
McMonigle and fellow big man Grant Whisman creamed the Blazers for 42 points and 28 boards when the Mohawks won 75-72 in triple overtime three weeks ago, but the duo managed only 15 points and 15 rebounds in the rematch.
“What we did in the past two years at Madison has been amazing,” McMonigle said. “Today they locked us down on defense and made the plays, and we didn’t. Their defense was stellar.”
Madison led 26-23 at halftime and was still tied at 36 after three quarters, but the Blazers forced seven fourth-quarter turnovers while outscoring Madison 16-2.
“Bad fourth quarter,” Smith said. “They made plays and we didn’t in the fourth. We played well up to the fourth. We had some really bad turnovers, and those empty possessions hurt.”
National Trail coach Mike Harrison couldn’t conceal his smile afterward, praising his squad’s defensive effort.
“We really sold out clamping down inside on McMonigle and Whisman,” Harrison said. “I thought we did a great job inside on the boards boxing out. Defensively, our bigs are mobile and they can switch on ball screens and guard their guards while we also made enough shots on the other end.”
Madison took the lead 38-36 on a Jake Munafo layup one minute into the final quarter, but the Mohawks wouldn’t score again, shooting 1-of-8 in the period. They were just 4-of-17 in the second half.
Madison also fell apart mentally late. Down eight with 1:30 left, the Mohawks came out of a timeout with six men and got hit with a technical foul. Smith owned the mistake and said it was a matter of sometimes it just isn’t your day.
“That is on me,” Smith said of the technical. “The turnovers were big and we couldn’t get shots to drop. You have to credit National Trail as well. We have been a pretty good fourth-quarter team, but today we just didn’t make plays and turned it over too much.”
National Trail sealed the win at the fre- throw line, nailing 13-of-17 in the second half when the Mohawks were forced to foul.
Cameron Harrison scored 31 in the first meeting and had a game-high 20 this time for the Blazers. Travis Hunt added 11 points and Adam Eyler chipped in 10.
McMonigle had six points, eight rebounds and five blocks for the Mohawks, and Whisman scored a team-high nine points with seven boards. Whiteman hit two 3-pointers and added eight points, while Tristan Sipple chipped in seven.
National Trail 11-12-13-16—52
NATIONAL TRAIL (19-5): Evynn Short 1 1 3; Travis Hunt 3 4 11; Cameron Harrison 7 5 20; Adam Eyler 4 0 10; Zach Woodall 0 4 4; Hunter Michael 1 2 4. Totals: 16-16-52
MADISON (20-5): Matt Gomia 2 0 5; Jake Munafo 1 0 2; Tristan Sipple 3 0 7; Mason Whiteman 2 2 8; Grant Whisman 4 1 9; Jake Phelps 0 1 1; Levi McMonigle 3 0 6. Totals 15-4-38
3-pointers: N 4 (Eyler 2, Harrison, Hunt), M 4 (Whiteman 2, Gomia, Sipple)