Warren advances: Warriors top Circleville 57-52 in district semi

ATHENS – The main objective for Circleville head coach Joe Goodyear heading into Friday evening’s Division II semi-final at the Ohio University Convocation Center against the Warren Warriors had to be finding a way to contain All-Ohio forward Evan French.

While the Tigers managed to limit French to just a pair of three-pointers in the game the Warriors got 17 points from Reece Patton to lead them to a 57-52 victory and punch their ticket to the district championship game next Saturday against Logan Elm.

The Warriors trailed by as many as 11 points in the opening quarter and by a pair at the intermission before taking the lead in the third quarter and holding off a fourth quarter charge by the Tigers to notch their 16th consecutive victory.

The Warriors came out a little cold to start the game while Circleville came out clicking on all cylinders as it used an 11-0 run to jump out to a 16-5 lead with three minutes to play in the first quarter.

Circleville sophomore Michael Camp did his best French impersonation as he drained three of the four three-pointers connected on by the Tigers in the first eight minutes of action.

Warren began to chip away at the Tiger lead on back-to-back buckets by Blake Kidder and Michael Hall and after a Will Giffin field goal for Circleville, Andrew Henthorn drained a trey from the right wing to cut the lead to 18-12.

Henthorn entered the game midway through the opening period and seemed to bring an energy to the Warriors on both ends of the court.

“He’s a great spark for us and plays with a lot of confidence,” said Warren head coach Blane Maddox of his 5-foot-10 junior guard. “He does a great job off of the bench for us.”

Giffin proved top be a threat under the basket all game long for the Tigers and his late bucket extended the lead back to eight but Patton connected on his second triple of the first quarter at the buzzer to close the lead to 20-15.

French, who put on quite an exhibition last week by scoring 22 points in the second quarter alone in a big Warren win over Athens, was held scoreless through the first 13 minutes of the game, largely due to the strong defensive play of 5-foot-9 inch senior David Burroughs.

French got his first deuce of the game with five minutes to play in the half on a nice assist from Patton and minutes later drained back-to-back three balls to give the Warriors their first lead since the opening minute of the game.

“Burroughs is a strong physical player and he jumped out on him (French) hard,” said Maddox. “Evan got shook loose there in the second quarter to kind of get us back in it.”

Giffin tied the game at 27-27 with his tenth point of the half and Justin Hill sent the Tigers to the break with a two-point lead after he forced a Warren turnover and cashed in at the other end.

Kyle Smith opened the second half with a three-pointer to send Circleville back in front by five but the royal blue and white recaptured the lead on a pair of field goals by Patton and Aaron Mazurkiewicz and a triple by Andrew “Diesel” Drayer.

French knocked down four consecutive shots from the charity stripe and after an old fashioned three-point play by Giffin tied the game at 38-38, the big blue went on a10-0 run to take a 48-38 lead early in the final period.

The pesky Tigers came clawing back as they cut the lead back to five on another score from Giffin and a Hugus deuce.

The Warriors stymied the Tiger rally when a three-point play by Kidder on an assist from Patton pushed the Warrior lead to 51-43 with 4:13 to play.

Circleville’s attempt to put the Warriors on the free-throw line proved unsuccessful as Warren connected on five-of-six freebies down the stretch to secure the victory.

In addition to leading his team in points with 17, Patton also led the way in rebounds with 11 and assists with four.

“We played more like a team in the second half,” said Patton. “I think defensively we really stepped it up and we were able to tough it out and get the win.”

French finished with 16 points while Hall chipped in with 11 points and six boards.

Patton felt that French’s three-pointers in the second half helped open things up for the Warren offense.

“We were just waiting for him to start clicking,” said Patton of his senior teammate. “Once he started making shots I think it brought back our confidence as a team.”

Giffin had quite a night for the Tigers as he finished a rebound shy of a double-double with nine rebounds to go along with a game-high 18 points.

Both teams connected on 18-of-44 field goal attempts while Circleville made eight shots from behind the arc compared to seven for the Warriors.

While Circleville’s season comes to a close with a 17-7 record, Warren (21-3) will advance to the district final next Saturday against Logan Elm, who notched a 57-46 win over Minford in Friday’s night cap.

Maddox was not overly exited about the way his team played but was thrilled to be one of 32 teams still remaining in the title hunt. “We get to move on and that’s all it’s about right now,” said Maddox, whose squad has not lost a game since the calendar changed to 2014. “Maybe we saved our best game for the next one.”

Tip-off time for the district championship next Saturday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Convo.