Prep boys basketball: Noles eliminated by Trail, 70-62

BYESVILLE – The emotions and stakes were high Saturday afternoon as Buckeye Trail and Monroe Central met for the fourth time this season.

Unfortunately for the Seminoles, those emotions got the best of them at times and, therefore, the Warriors were able to win the stakes and advance to the Division III Eastern District Tournament in the process.

Capitalizing on a 32-of-46 effort from the charity stripe, the Warriors ousted the Seminoles, 70-62 before a large crowd inside Meadowbrook High School.

“Don’t under-estimate the fact that Buckeye Trail is a good team,” said Monroe Central head coach Lou “Scooter” Tolzda. “Maybe because of some of the teams we’ve played down the stretch, it can be easy to overlook them, but Trail is right up there with them. I really believe they’re as good as anyone in the district and they have a shot at making the regionals.”

The Warriors will need two wins this week at Ohio University Eastern if they’re going to make the trip to Athens for the ‘Sweet 16.’ The district tournament opens at 6 p.m. Tuesday against 19-4 Garaway.

The victory was the third in the four meetings against the Seminoles with the last two being in big-game atmospheres. The prior meeting came almost three weeks ago in the semifinals of the OVAC Tournament.

“I don’t know if we had their number or not, but we made some plays when we needed to,” said Trail head coach Rod Gray.

The aforementioned emotions got the best of Tolzda early. He was whacked with a technical foul less than three minutes into the contest and basically from that point on, the Warriors had seized the momentum.

“The kids put their hearts into it and they wanted to win really badly,” Tolzda said. “It gets frustrating when things don’t go your way. But, we kept talking to the kids about handling adversity.”

Trail owned a 14-10 lead at the end of the first and scored the final four points of the half to take a 34-25 lead into the intermission.

Monroe Central struggled to get into an offensive rhythm because its senior leader, Korey Lafferre, spent a lot of the first 16 minutes on the pine with foul trouble.

“For us to be a good team, we have to have Korey on the floor,” Tolzda admitted. “Plus, (Trail) is a better defensive team than they’re probably given credit for. They play good man defense and they have the big kid (Josh Toland) inside, who is a rim protector.”

The Seminoles (14-10) also struggled to get into the open floor and create easy opportunities in transition, which is something that Gray said his team stressed all week.

The third quarter proved to be too much for the Seminoles to overcome. Struggling from the floor, Monroe Central watched the Warriors explode on a 14-2 run before Seminoles’ Tanner Burkhart connected on a buzzer-beating triple, making it 53-37 at the final stop.,

During the third, Trail’s Josh Toland and Lane Starr each had six points in the period.

The Warriors – thanks to 11-of-20 at the the line in the fourth – never let Monroe Central get closer than an eight-point differential.

Splendid senior guard Zac Roe had 17 points to lead the way, but had just two field goals. C.J. Beaver, who had the hot hand in the first half, finished with 15.

Starr and Caleb Gray each had 11, while Toland had 12 points and 20 boards.

Lafferre and hard-working junior Levi Brown each had 14 points to lead the Seminoles. Josh Guiler had 10 points and five rebounds.