WAYNESVILLE — History will show that Madison High School’s boys basketball team won its second straight Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye Division championship this season.
But it sure didn’t feel like that Friday night.
The Mohawks came to Waynesville looking to secure the outright title, but the host Spartans had other ideas, roaring to a 59-39 Senior Night victory to earn a share of the crown.
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“It was definitely a shocker and a wakeup call for us going into the tournament,” said Madison senior Levi McMonigle, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds. “They came ready to play, we didn’t. They hustled, we didn’t. We came in here thinking we stuck ’em early in the season and this is going to be all right, but they kind of slapped us in the face.
“It sucks that we shared it, but we still got a part of it. Not all hope’s lost. The tournament’s coming up. We’ve got to get ready for that.”
The Mohawks kicked off Buckeye play with a 52-40 win over Waynesville on Dec. 7, but the Spartans have come a long way since then.
Madison finished the regular season at 18-4 overall and 10-2 in the league, while Waynesville improved to 15-7, 10-2. This is the Spartans’ first SWBL title since 2014.
“We’re still league champions and back to back, which hasn’t happened here since the 1970s, so we’re very proud of that,” Mohawks coach Jeff Smith said. “In terms of this game, I can’t think of anything that was good for Madison tonight. If it wasn’t our worst performance of the year, it was close.
“I think we played a little bit like we’d already won it outright. We didn’t play with much passion. I was surprised by that. I obviously didn’t do a good job of getting them ready to play.”
Madison was coming off a triple-overtime triumph over National Trail on Tuesday. Smith didn’t want to use that as an excuse, yet said the Mohawks appeared to have weary legs Friday.
“They just looked dead in the water from the get-go. We looked like a tired basketball team,” Smith said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Waynesville. They played with a lot more urgency than we did. Certainly we did shoot poorly, but their defense had a lot to do with that.”
Alex Hurley tossed in 10 of his 17 points in the fourth period, helping the Spartans put the game on ice.
Waynesville got quality play across the board, with Ethan Speers and Luke Kindred both scoring nine points, John Cole eight and Anthony Carmichael seven. Carmichael also had 12 rebounds and four assists, Hurley chipped in seven boards and three steals, and Kindred added four assists and four steals.
“I’ve never felt anything like it in my life,” said Hurley, a senior guard, after the Spartans climbed the ladder one by one and cut down the net. “We left everything out here for the last home game. It’s just crazy. I don’t know how else to describe it.
“We weren’t scared of them by any means. We were a little shaky the first time we played them because we lost twice last year, but everybody played their butts off out there tonight. It’s the most adrenaline I’ve ever had. We’ve gotten better all season. We all push each other every day. That’s what it takes.”
A large home crowd celebrated the blowout and honored Waynesville’s seven seniors — Drake Stiles, Grant Johnson, Kindred, Carmichael, Cole, Hurley and Speers — during a pregame ceremony.
Spartans coach Mike Arlinghaus said there was no talk of last Sunday’s tournament draw all week. Madison was the sole focus.
“You don’t always get an opportunity in February to play meaningful games for league titles,” said Arlinghaus, a Talawanda graduate. “We told the kids that they’ve got an opportunity they’re not going to get back. Time is the most valuable thing you’ve got. We’ve got seven guys that are running out of time, and they played like it tonight. They don’t want to miss anything.
“I remember as a player getting to cut the net down on Senior Night … Fenwick was at our place. I’ll never forget it, and I hope these kids don’t forget tonight. Our fans were really good. This is a great community, and they love their sports.”
Arlinghaus said Waynesville’s outside shooting hasn’t been a strength this year, so he was quite happy with a 5-of-14 effort from 3-point range. The Spartans got to the rim as well, with Cole contributing a pair of slam dunks, and won the battle of the boards.
A subpar (8-of-17) performance from the charity stripe mattered very little to the winners.
“Our fans were into it, our bench was into it, and I think that helped us handle our emotions in the first quarter,” Arlinghaus said. “Our guys got high and they were playing hard and got tired, and when the subs went in, we didn’t really have much of a drop. We really settled in and played.
“Carmichael did a great job in the first quarter. In my opinion, he’s the best player in our league on our side. He means so much to us rebounding and defending. The job he did on McMonigle was huge.”
Grant Whisman had 10 points and seven boards for the Mohawks, but fouled out with 6:37 remaining.
Smith said Madison should’ve wrapped up the outright Buckeye crown last Friday, but lost at home to Northridge 58-56.
“That’s the one that stings the most because we had it in hand and let it get away,” Smith said. “We had some guys who normally play well that struggled tonight. They’ve got to do better for us to make a tournament run.”
The Mohawks will begin Division III sectional play at Vandalia Butler next Saturday, facing Dayton Christian at noon. Waynesville is also in D-III at Butler and will open against Troy Christian or Miami East on Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m.
McMonigle said he’s sure his team can regroup and make a postseason run.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We’ve just got to come together as a team again and find out what we do best.”
MADISON (18-4, 10-2 SWBL Buckeye): Matt Gomia 1 2 5; Tristan Sipple 1 0 3; Mason Whiteman 2 0 6; Grant Whisman 4 2 10; Levi McMonigle 3 4 10; Jake Munafo 0 3 3; Jake Phelps 1 0 2. Totals: 12-11-39
WAYNESVILLE (15-7, 10-2 SWBL Buckeye): Ryan Papanek 1 1 4; Luke Kindred 4 1 9; Anthony Carmichael 3 1 7; John Cole 4 0 8; Alex Hurley 6 2 17; Bryce Nolbertowicz 1 0 2; Ethan Speers 4 0 9; Grant Johnson 0 3 3. Totals: 23-8-59
3-pointers: M 4 (Whiteman 2, Sipple, Gomia), W 5 (Hurley 3, Speers, Papanek)