Cadets edge Central in double OT

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – Steubenville Catholic Central and Fort Frye put on a great show for the crowd at Ohio University Eastern Saturday during the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 3A boys basketball championship game.

In the end, the Cadets had too many offensive rebounds and free throws for the Crusaders to overcome during their 60-56 double overtime victory.

Fort Frye snagged 14 offensive rebounds on the evening and outscored Central 14-2 from the foul line while being led by Seth Lagraen’s 25 points and 17 rebounds to claim the crown.

“This was a tough game and this is a very tough division,” said Fort Frye head coach Eric Henniger. “The top six or seven teams are really good, and today wasn’t any different. It was two good teams going back and forth at each other. You come down here this early and you want to get a win or it doesn’t feel like it was worth it. They guys played really well and executed a lot of things on offense and defense.”

Added Central head coach Sean Tucker, “One key aspect to basketball is boxing out. If you look at their offensive rebounds they had 14 and they probably scored on 75 percent of those rebounds. They also had 24 defensive rebounds. If you look at us we had eight offensive and 19 defensive rebounds.

“We had to do two things to win this game today. We had to stop Seth Lagraen and we also had to control the boards. Those are two things we didn’t do today, and that cost us the game. Lagraen was nine for 13 from two. We did against the three, he went 0-for-2. He hurt us on the boards with putbacks.”

Fort Frye led by as many as 12 in the first half before a pair of Matt Martello three-pointers cut the lead in half. The Cadets led 29-23 at intermission.

“One thing about our kids, if you don’t know already, is they don’t ever give up,” said Tucker. “That’s not the type of kids we have at Central. They’ll never give up no matter what the deficit is. We’ve been down 24 points this year and came back, and coming back from 12 points down today just shows the character and pride of these seniors. I just feel sick to my stomach for them. That’s the problem, you have six seniors who have never given up in anything they’ve done and they deserve all the credit for why we are where we are right now.”

The Crusaders tied the game at 33 after three quarters led by a defensive effort that allowed the Cadets just one field goal and a pair of free throws. Michael Manfresca scored half of Central’s 10 third-quarter points.

Central took their first lead since a 3-2 advantage early in the first quarter when Matt Martello canned a three with 5:35 remaining to make the score 38-37, but Fort Frye then appeared to take control of the game with an 11-2 run that put the score at 48-40 Cadets with about 1:30 left in the game.

Central was far from done though as a pair of Ryan Fletcher threes made it a two-score game with one remaining. Chandler Lang hit one of two from the charity stripe to make it a three-point game. On the ensuing possession Martello drained another Central three to tie the game at 49 and ultimately send the game to overtime.

Lagraen converted a hoop-and-harm opportunity to put Fort Frye up three in overtime, but Fletcher did the honors snatching the win from the Cadets this time when he drained a three-pointer with five seconds left making the score 52-52 and forcing a second overtime period.

“They’ve been here before,” said Tucker. “They know what to expect. They knew what to expect coming down here. They knew what it was like to play from behind because it’s something we’ve had to do all year, and they hit the key shots we needed to. We just didn’t hit the key shots early enough.”

With the Crusaders leading 56-54 in the second overtime Fort Frye’s offensive rebound and free throw advantage showed itself in a big way. Carter Kiefer hit his first free throw to make the score 56-55, but missed the second. Lagraen pulled down the offensive glass, would eventually get fouled, and knock down both free throws to put Fort Frye 57-56 with 2:10 left. The Cadets went on to hit three of their next four foul shots to make the final 60-56.

“At some point (after Central kept hitting threes late) you start thinking its starting to slip away, but these guys really buckled down defensively,” said Henniger. “Even when we are missing free throws we’re still in the game because we’re playing good defense. We kept them from getting two-pointers, but they kept bombing those threes. Sometimes those are hard to equalize, but it came down to some free throws at the end.”

Added Tucker, “We knew what was going to happen with the way Fort Frye runs their offense. They try to wear you down, and they did that, and we broke down a couple times. We didn’t box out a couple times and they got putbacks. We went zone a couple times, and we’re not a zone team. One of the reasons we don’t like to run a zone, and coach (Joe) Ribar said earlier is that we don’t box out well. We put ourselves in great position to win the game today, and we were one box out away from doing that.”

On the day the Crusaders were called for 23 fouls to Fort Frye’s 11 and had three players foul out. The Cadets took 28 foul shots while Central stepped to the charity stripe just four times.

Martello led the Crusaders with 15 points to go with four rebounds. Fletcher had 10 points and eight rebound with Mike Manfresca adding seven points and seven rebounds.

The Crusaders now move their focus to sectional play where they take on Strasburg 7 p.m. Friday at Union Local.