Western Reserve defeated East Canton in the other sectional semifinal Wednesday.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STRUTHERS -- Jay Staley was a third grader and Josh Diaz was in kindergarten the last time the Southern Local High boys basketball team won a tournament game.
Wednesday, Staley and Diaz each scored 17 points to lead the Indians to a 70-53 triumph over Mathews in the Division IV tournament at the Struthers Fieldhouse.
"The kids are so happy," Southern (7-14) coach George Whittaker said.
About the school's postseason struggles, the second-year coach said, "They've been close a lot of times, but found a way to lose."
In the other sectional semifinal, Western Reserve poured in 12 3-pointers as they ended the season for winless East Canton with a 73-59 victory.
"To be honest, that didn't surprise me because we hit for 12 once this year and nine about four times," Western Reserve coach Steve Miller said. "We made 119 of them in the regular season."
Saturday, Western Reserve will play third-seeded Heritage Christian at 6:30 p.m. and Southern will take on top-seeded Mineral Ridge at 8 p.m.
Southern-Mathews: Tied at 18, the Indians seized control of the game with defensive pressure that limited the Mustangs to six second-quarter points.
"We kept the pressure on and ran the ball up the court, spotting open people and making some shots," Whittaker said.
Justin Shilot connected for a pair of 3-pointers as Southern scored 14 points for a 32-24 halftime edge.
Early in the third quarter, Staley's steal and basket launched a 10-0 run that gave Southern a 44-28 lead they would nurse the rest of the way.
"This feels good after a bit of a disappointing season. We lost a lot of close games," said Staley, a senior who made nine assists and four steals, and had five rebounds. "We got a lot of help from our underclassmen."
About Diaz, Staley said, "He does a good job coming off the bench for us. He makes smart moves and good decisions for a freshman."
Brandon Hamilton scored 13 points for the Indians.
Adam Englebaugh led Mathews (6-15) with 18 points.
Western Reserve-East Canton: The Blue Devils (6-15) connected for six 3-pointers in the first quarter in jumping out to a 22-15 lead.
"The problem is that sometimes you tend to live and die with the 3, and our record shows that it doesn't always pan out," Miller said. "We shoot it well -- about 32, 33 percent -- but we don't rebound offensively as well as I'd like."
The Hornets won the second quarter. Matt Gooch's bucket from underneath cut the Blue Devils' lead to 34-29 at halftime.
One reason they stayed close, Miller said, was because the Blue Devils had only one offensive rebound in the first half.
"I was very disappointed with our offensive rebounding tonight -- at halftime, I couldn't believe we were winning," Miller said.
"Sometimes when you shoot the 3 that well, everyone stands around and watches," Miller said. "Instead, we've got to have the mindset that it might not go in and I've got to get the rebound."
The Hornets' Jake Jacobsen, who finished with 16 points, nailed a 3-pointer early in the third quarter to reduce the Blue Devils' lead to three points.
But Speece, who finished with 16 points, connected for a basket and a 3 to open Western Reserve's 13-2 run that restored the lead to 14 (49-35).
Four other Devils reached double figures -- Kyle Trimble (14), Jeremy Shevel (12), Ryan Jones (12) and Doug Shirley (10).
Kyle Arick led the Hornets (0-21) with 21 points.