Madison was 9-14 last year, but the Mohawks roared back for a league title. Here’s how they’re doing it.

There will be no title sharing in the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division this season.

Madison High School’s boys basketball team went on the road and fought off Preble Shawnee 50-45 on Friday night, capturing the outright Buckeye championship after clinching at least a share with Tuesday’s 40-38 win at Northridge.

“It’s really rewarding and very meaningful,” said Mohawks coach Jeff Smith, whose team improved to 18-3 overall and finished 11-1 in league play to earn its first SWBL crown since 2009-10.

THE FIRST MEETING: Madison 41, Preble Shawnee 32

“There were some naysayers of Coach Smith last year when we went 9-14, but we played a really young team. I think had we not gone through that process, those young kids would not be performing at the level they’re performing now.

“Everything we went through last year spawned what we’ve done this year. And our kids worked in the summer. Man, did we work. We told the kids this is the residue of that hard work.”

Grant Whisman tallied 22 points, eight rebounds and three assists for the Mohawks, who extended their winning streak to 14. Whisman has been the team’s leading scorer the last two seasons and is still only a sophomore.

“It feels great after a rougher season last year,” he said. “We lost some games really close, and this year we’ve won those games that we would’ve lost last year.”

Madison is off for a week and will close the regular season at Cedarville next Saturday. Before that, the Mohawks are hoping to get a high seed in the Division III Dayton sectional draw Sunday.

What should people expect from Madison in the tournament?

“I think they should expect us to play hard and play for our school, play for our community, play for each other, and we’ll try to get the job done,” Whisman said.

Shawnee (13-5, 8-3) is in that sectional as well and can’t be taken lightly. The Arrows lost to the Mohawks 41-32 on Jan. 6 and entered Friday’s contest needing to beat Madison and then Milton-Union next Friday to get a piece of the title.

The hosts took a 36-34 lead with 5:26 remaining, yet didn’t score for the next three-plus minutes, allowing the Mohawks to score 6 straight points and move ahead for good.

Austin Moore (15) and Joey Bates (13) topped the scoring column for the Arrows, who were 4 of 21 from beyond the arc and sank 9 of 17 free throws. Chase Thompson grabbed 12 rebounds and Moore totaled 11.

“Unfortunately, we just didn’t hit enough shots again,” Shawnee coach Dale Spitler Jr. said. “I thought our effort was there. Our rebounding was there. We didn’t turn it over too much. We just didn’t shoot as well as we would’ve liked in a game like this.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of pressure. When the place is sold out, that changes things a little when you’re trying to shoot. But we were happy to have the opportunity to play for the league championship because a lot of teams aren’t in that situation. Give credit to Madison. They’re well coached and have some good players that made enough plays.”

Madison’s Levi McMonigle tallied 11 points and 11 boards, scoring 7 points in the fourth quarter before leaving the game with a knee injury with 19.9 seconds left.

It was 47-44 when McMonigle was fouled and went down. He had to be replaced by Matt Gomia, who made 1 of 2 foul shots. The Arrows got a free throw from Moore with 9.1 seconds left before Cameron Morgan’s two charity conversions sealed the win for the Mohawks with 6.8 on the clock.

“Levi was supposed to go to the foul line, but he almost couldn’t walk,” Smith said. “We hope it’s not bad. He says he’s OK.”

Gomia tossed in 9 points for Madison, which was 17 of 20 from the foul line.

Whisman was perfect on seven free-throw attempts. He also got a fortuitous bounce on a 3-pointer with 39.3 seconds left that put the Mohawks up 47-42. The ball was short and hit the rim before popping up and going through the hoop.

“I was hoping it went in,” Whisman said, “or coach would not have been very happy.”

“It was the longest second ever in my life when it was in the air, but he got the roll,” Spitler said. “That’s one if you’re going to shoot it, you better make it. I think he knew that, and that’s why he made it.”

Whisman also earned Smith’s praise for his defensive work against Bates, who fouled out with 1:22 left.

“I think the difference down the stretch was our defense,” Smith said. “Having all underclassmen out there at the end of the game was a concern of mine, but we kept our composure when it got a little dicey. It felt like the other night at Northridge. Even when we were down, I just had a sense that we were going to hang around and make a play to win it, and we did.”

Shawnee has a quick turnaround and will host Arcanum on Saturday night. Madison has some time to relax.

Smith didn’t want to linger very long after Friday’s win. He packed up his players and headed back to their gym to cut down the nets.

“We were going to do that regardless of tonight’s outcome,” Smith said. “If it went the other way, Shawnee would’ve been a worthy champion.

“Playing your last games on the road, you don’t get to celebrate if you win something big. So I thought, ‘How can we make this special?’ That’s when we did the limo, and somebody’s decorated the gym for me while we’ve been over here. We’re going to go back, take some pictures and eat a little pizza.”

Madison 12-13-8-17—50

Preble Shawnee 11-14-7-13—45

MADISON (18-3, 11-1 SWBL Buckeye): Mason Whiteman 2 0 6, Cameron Morgan 0 2 2, Matt Gomia 3 1 9, Grant Whisman 6 7 22, Levi McMonigle 2 7 11. Totals: 13-17-50

PREBLE SHAWNEE (13-5, 8-3 SWBL Buckeye): Tyler Worley 1 2 5, Chase Thompson 1 1 3, Andrew Monnin 2 2 6, Austin Moore 5 4 15, Joey Bates 6 0 13, Samuel Agee 1 0 3. Totals: 16-9-45

3-pointers: M 7 (Whisman 3, Gomia 2, Whiteman 2), P 4 (Bates, Moore, Worley, Agee)

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