Prep boys basketball: Warren wins in overtime

LOGAN – When comparing the Logan Chieftains to Southeastern Ohio Athletic League basketball rival Warren, there’s little doubt the Warriors are the better team with the better overall talent.

If nothing else, each team’s record this season bears out that fact.

But that doesn’t mean the better team played the better game Friday night in Jim Myers Gymnasium; it was just that, on this night, the team that played the best didn’t get rewarded for it with a much-deserved victory.

It was the Chieftains – yes, the same Chieftains who were blown out 80-45 at Warren a month ago – who held a six-point advantage late in regulation, only to see the Warriors rally and overcome the Purple & White in overtime, 63-59.

Warren (15-1 overall, 7-0 SEOAL) is ranked No. 12 in this week’s state Division II Associated Press basketball poll.

And while they didn’t know it at the time – heck, the Warriors were just glad to vamoose from Hocking County with a W – they also clinched no worse than a share of their first conference championship since the 2005-06 season with the combination of their victory and Portsmouth’s 62-52 loss Friday night at Chillicothe.

“Again, for everything we’ve been through this season, to come up against the best team in the league – and probably the best DII team in this area – and take them on nose-to-nose and have an opportunity to beat them, I can’t say how proud I am of these guys,” said Logan coach John Helber, whose Chiefs (4-11, 4-4) came oh-so-close to pulling off an upset of epic proportions.

“I know (the Logan players) are tired of hearing that – that they played hard – but they should be proud of the way they played tonight,” he added. “If you recall, back on Jan. 2, that (Warren) team had 48 points against us at halftime.”

Warren has one not-so-secret weapon the Purple & White just can’t match? and really haven’t been able to match for three seasons now.

“I’ve challenged Evan French many, many times to step up in big games,” said Warren coach and Logan High School graduate Blane Maddox, “and in the middle of the third quarter I just said ‘French, you’ve just got to get shots off,’ and he worked hard, and the team worked hard for him to get them.

“He took a lot of shots,” Maddox added. “Dylan (Leffingwell) did a great job on the boards, Evan Yabs came up with 11 big points, Michael Hall’s been sick and Reese (Patton) had a tough night? so we’re lucky we have Evan French.”

French scored 29 points (18 in the second half and OT) on 10-of-23 shooting – including 6-of-15 from beyond the three-point arc – and it was his triple that pulled the Warriors within 54-52 with 25 seconds remaining in regulation time, his two free throws that sent the game to overtime, and his trifecta with 22 seconds left in the extra session that proved to be the game-winning bucket.

Yabs had 11 points, three assists and three steals for the Warriors, and Leffingwell came up big with six points and nine rebounds.

Seniors Tristan Myers and Anthony McNeal led the Chiefs with 19 and 16 points, respectively, with McNeal nailing four first-half triples.

Logan trailed just 28-27 at halftime, led by four (37-33) five minutes into the third stanza, and the game was tied 37-37, 41-41 and 43-43 before the Chiefs took the lead.

The Chiefs made nine-straight free throws in taking a 51-45 advantage with 2:02 remaining – Myers and junior point guard Joey Cottrill (eight points, four steals, four rebounds and four assists) each went 4-for-4 – and it looked like Logan might have the ball with a chance to add to the lead when the Warriors missed a three-ball.

But Yabs scored a layup off a steal and assist from French, and the Warriors crept back within 52-49 with 1:06 to play.

Adam Lang had a potential game-tying three go in and out before Myers was fouled and made two more free throws for a 54-49 edge with 45 seconds left.

French tripled then, after Maddox called his team’s final time-out late in regulation, Yabs stole the Logan inbounds pass and French was eventually fouled on a rebound with 13.9 seconds left.

The smooth 6-foot-3 junior made both free throws to pull Warren even – Logan had held the lead since Myers put the Chiefs ahead 45-43 with two free throws with 2:50 remaining – and the game went to OT after the Warriors missed a desperation three-ball after stealing an inbounds pass.

“We knew that was coming (from the Warren defense),” Helber said. “We wanted the ball in Joey’s hands; we felt we could get through (the Warren press) with Joey handling it. We tell them in practice about lazy passes, and (lazy passes) bit us tonight.

“I think we tried to throw a cross-court pass,” he added, “and it’s hard against teams like that who play great defense. Maybe we didn’t get our heads up quick enough to see that we had some guys open.”

While the Chiefs missed some charity tosses in the extra session – they were just 3-of-6 – they held a 59-57 advantage after Patrick Klinger made a freebie with 34.6 seconds remaining.

Shortly afterward, French took a pass from Yabs and, from deep on the left wing, swished his eventual game-winning triple – celebrating by holding his right arm in the air on the follow-through – as the Warren crowd behind him went berserk.

Logan turned the ball over driving up court seconds later then, after Yabs converted two free throws with 17.3 seconds to play, the Chiefs missed two potential game-tying three-pointers in the final frantic seconds. French clinched the win with a free throw with 5.5 seconds left.

It was Logan’s defense that made all the difference in overcome a couple early eight-point deficits.

“We changed defenses, changed numerous zones tonight, and I thought the kids did a good job adjusting to it,” Helber praised. “I was pleased with the way the three guards out front pressured. I was happy with our defensive effort.”

Maddox concurred.

“They did a wonderful job matching up with us out of their zone,” Maddox stated. “We just didn’t move real well (and) we didn’t crash the offensive boards real well the first half. We were getting one shot and done.

“We’re a jump-shooting team,” he added. “That’s our game. We have one inside presence (Leffingwell), and sometimes (Hall) will slide down there, but we’re a perimeter team that can shoot the lights out. Luckily we caught just enough there at the end.”

Maddox was confident his team would not see the same Logan squad the Warriors thumped by 35 points a little more than four weeks ago. Helber didn’t think so either, although he admitted he wasn’t totally sure.

“No, no,” Maddox said. “We shot 65 percent (from the floor) that night, we were in our home gym and we had a lot of confidence against them at home. It was one of those nights. We knew coming in here that we were in for a battle.

“It was a great ballgame,” he added. “I was proud of coach Helber’s team and how they’ve overcome adversity. The atmosphere (was great). I didn’t see chippiness; I just saw two teams who really wanted to win badly.”

Helber just wasn’t so sure before the opening tip-off.

“Before we took the floor, Gregg (assistant coach Gregg Landis) and I looked at each other and I said ‘are we ready to play?’ ” Helber recalled. “We both said that we didn’t know? but I tell you what, these kids came and played their hearts out tonight.

“The better team, the (more) talented team, won the game,” he added, “but the team I thought played harder should have won the game.”

Weather permitting, the Chiefs host Unioto in a non-league contest tonight while the Warriors entertain Belpre.

The LHS grad and Hocking County native Maddox – who has been through his share of basketball battles with teams from his alma mater – probably summed things up best.

“I love this place, and I have family here,” Maddox said with a relieved grin, “but I can’t wait to get on the bus and get outta here.”