It was a breakout season in so many ways for Ross High School’s boys basketball team, but the ride ended in frustration Friday night.
Clinton-Massie’s size and strength proved to be too much for the Rams as they dropped a 58-45 decision in Division II sectional play at Fairmont’s Trent Arena.
Ross finished 15-8 and hasn’t won a tournament game since the 2011-12 campaign.
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“We played as hard as we could the whole game,” said Landen Angel, who paced the Rams with 17 points and 11 rebounds. “I wouldn’t complain about anything. I love this team and we finished as strong as I wanted to, so I’m happy with it.”
First-year head coach David Lane told his players to focus on all their accomplishments this year. Ross won 22 games in the last four seasons combined.
“The first thing I told them was, ‘Do not let this game define your season,’ ” Lane said. “These guys should be extremely proud of themselves. They deserved to win tonight with how much hard work they put in, but that’s life. Sometimes it doesn’t happen.
“I think we shocked some people this year and kind of put our name out there. I’m extremely humbled. I teared up a little bit in the locker room. I couldn’t ask for a better group for my first year as head coach.”
The Rams were seeded fifth and Massie was No. 8. The Falcons (15-8) were powered by a three-headed force known as Thomas Myers, Trey Uetrecht and Zach Chowning.
The 6-foot-7 Myers totaled 21 points and 15 rebounds, while the bruising Uetrecht marked 14 points and 13 boards. Chowning buried a trio of 3-pointers and scored 16 points.
“We knew we had a size advantage, and seeing them on film, we knew that we could try to get to the paint as much as possible,” Massie coach Todd Cook said. “Even my guards are stronger. We wanted to try to get to the basket as much as we could with the guards, but we wanted to create as much space as we could with Trey and Thomas.”
Massie only trailed once (6-4) and led 31-26 at halftime. All three of Chowning’s 3-pointers came in the opening two quarters.
The Falcons unleashed a box-and-one defense on Angel in the third period, with Daulton Wolfe handling the one-on-one duties. Angel was scoreless in the quarter as Massie increased its lead to 43-32.
“I didn’t want to show anything in the first half. That way, they didn’t have anything to plan for at halftime,” Cook said of going to the box-and-one. “It completely changed the game.
“I really didn’t believe that we would be able to stay in it the whole second half. I kept on telling my coaches, ‘Let me know when we need to get out of this.’ And it was just like, ‘Why get out of it? No one else is shooting 3s.’ They all just quit shooting.”
The Rams made some adjustments at the third stop, and Angel scored 7 points in the fourth period. But the margin never slipped below 8 in the final quarter, even with the Falcons sinking only 5 of 12 free throws during that stretch.
Massie was 17 of 30 overall at the charity stripe. The Rams, who got 10 points from Ben Yeager, were 5 of 8.
“We’ve seen the box-and-one the past couple games,” Lane said. “When you have a thousand-point scorer on your team and a guy that has the offensive firepower he does, you’ve got to expect that sometimes. I didn’t think our execution was as good as I thought it should’ve been.
“In the second half, I think they kind of imposed their will a little bit on the boards, especially off the free-throw situations. It’s hard to consistently box those guys out when we don’t have the size on our side.”
Ross did convert eight 3-pointers, yet shot just 24.2 percent from beyond the arc.
“I’d say most of those were decent looks. They just didn’t fall tonight,” Lane said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They did a real good job defensively against us.
Massie will return to Fairmont on Monday for a 6 p.m. sectional semifinal against second-seeded Fenwick (16-6). Ross, meanwhile, will say goodbye to four seniors: Angel, Joe Valentine, Andrew Records and Zach Smith.
“The seniors have done a fantastic job of laying the foundation for this culture change we’ve got right now,” Lane said. “I really wanted to send them out with a tournament win.”
Angel said he’ll always remember this season with pride.
“We were able to do what we wanted to do and turn a losing record into a winning record,” he said. “I’m just excited to see where it goes the next couple years. I hope they continue what we did this year and keep going on a high note.”
CLINTON-MASSIE (15-8): Daulton Wolfe 0 2 2, Zach Chowning 6 1 16, Thomas Myers 8 5 21, Trey Uetrecht 3 8 14, Griffin Laake 2 1 5. Totals: 19-17-58
ROSS (15-8): Ben Yeager 4 0 10, Landen Angel 5 4 17, Joe Valentine 3 0 6, Cooper Shields 2 1 6, Sean Lange 2 0 6. Totals: 16-5-45
3-pointers: C 3 (Chowning 3), R 8 (Angel 3, Yeager 2, Lange 2, Shields)