Headed to state: Yabs’ putback helps Warren beat Quakers 49-47

ATHENS – Evan Yabs scored just two points in Saturday afternoon’s regional championship game against New Philadelphia, but they may well have been the biggest two points in the history of the Warren Warriors.

Yabs grabbed the rebound of a Dylan Leffingwell last second shot and put it back up and in as time expired to give the Warriors a 49-47 victory over the Quakers to punch their ticket to their very first appearance in the Ohio Division II state tournament.

With the score tied at 47 with 10.5 seconds to play, Leffingwell drove strong to the bucket and his left-handed layup was just a bit too strong.

Yabs, at 5-foot-9, the smallest player on the court at the end of the game, was in the right place at the right time as he grabbed the rebound and in one motion put back up the game winning shot as his Warrior teammates flooded the court.

“In the huddle we drew up a play for (Evan) French to get some isolation but there was some serious ball pressure so Dylan (Leffingwell) took it to the hoop strong,” said Yabs of the game winning scenario. “It went off the rim and I was just trying to get follow. I wasn’t sure if time was going to expire, but I am glad that it didn’t.”

The final play didn’t quite go the way that Warren head coach Blane Maddox drew it up, but it worked to perfection none the less.

“It was supposed to be a side out and it never developed, so we just scrambled,” said Maddox. “We just didn’t get any action and broke down and attacked and it was just all Yabs.”

Early on it appeared the Warriors would not be in need of any last second heroics as the big blue jumped out to a 27-14 halftime lead, largely due to the red-hot shooting of Evan French.

The junior sharpshooter, who poured in 27 points in the final 12 minutes of action in Thursday evening’s overtime win over Athens, connected on five triples in the opening half.

“Coming out we thought it would be important to get a spark going and not to get off to a slow start because it might be hard to come back,” said French, who finished with 21 points in the game. “We just tried to light it up I guess.”

Warren continued to pull away early in the second half as French scored the first six Warrior points to increase the margin to a game high 16 points at 33-17.

The Quakers had no plans of going away easy and it would be big 6-6 junior Ethan Boose, who led the way.

In a stretch of two minutes, Boose scored six points in a row, all coming off of offensive rebounds to cut the lead to 33-25 with 2:33 to play in the third.

Reece Patton connected on a pair of free-throws for Warren, but New Philly closed out the third period with a 6-2 spurt to trim the once large Warren lead to just six at 37-31.

Marc Colombo and Boose executed a perfect high-low move to open the final period, but Patton answered with a jumper to keep the lead at six with just over six minutes to go.

Boose, who pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds in the game, scored once again on a putback, but Patton came through in the clutch to make it 41-35.

“Reece (Patton) made three or four clutch shots there in the fourth quarter,” said Maddox of his junior forward, who finished with 15 points and a team-high six rebounds in the game.

The Warriors limited Colombo to just a lone field goal in the opening half, but the junior began to come to life in the final period as his turn-around jumper closed the lead to four with four minutes to play.

Back-to-back baskets by Leffingwell and Michael Hall increased the royal blue and white lead to eight at 45-37, but once again Boose had an answer, this one coming on an old fashioned three-point play to make it 45-40 with 2:24 to play. Patton continued his clutch fourth quarter with another hoop, but Boose completed his second three-point play in a minute to trim the lead to 47-43 with less than two minutes to go.

The Quakers cut the lead to a pair on a perfectly executed inbounds play from Caleb Beans to Boose, and came all the way back to tie it up on a 15-footer by Colombo with 15 seconds to play to set the stage for the dramatic finish.

The Warriors let the clock run down to 10.5 seconds before Maddox called for a timeout.

“We have always said all along that we are a team of more than one,” said Maddox. “Dylan took a nice take to draw the two guys away and Yabs came up with the finish.”

Ironically Leffingwell and Yabs have been great friends since all the way back in the second grade.

“I got the layup and thought it was going in but I turned around and saw my best buddy Yabs there and he put it in just like he always used to,” Leffingwell said.

Pandemonium ensued as the very large contingent of Warren fans erupted at the first regional championship in school history.

Boose led all scorers with 27 points, including 12-of-16 from the field, while Colombo added 15 for the Quakers, whose season ended with a 19-8 record and a very bright future.

Next up for Maddox and his crew is an appearance in the Ohio State Division II Final Four Thursday at Value City Arena in Columbus against St. Vincent-St. Marys.

St. Vincent-St. Marys happens to be the alma mater of one LeBron James.

“I know that whatever happens, we will represent Southeastern Ohio basketball and Washington County with class,” Maddox said.

Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m Thursday.