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Southern seniors spark 69-44 victory over Western Reserve



Published: Wed, February 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The duo of Josh Diaz and Jesse Shilot scored 24 points each for the Blue Devils.

STRUTHERS -- Western Reserve expected Josh Diaz to be a handful to control, but the Blue Devils didn't figure on Southern getting the same point total from Jesse Shilot.

Diaz and Shilot, both seniors, each scored 24 points and led Southern to a 69-44 victory over Western Reserve in first round action in the Division IV boys sectional basketball tournament Tuesday night.

Shilot canned four 3-point goals in his total, while Diaz was a dominant force under the hoop as the Indians (11-10) advanced to meet No. 3 seed Columbiana Friday night at 6:30 p.m.

"We figured that Diaz was going to get his points, but when Shilot started throwing in those long 3-pointers, it was just too much for us to handle," said Western Reserve coach Steve Miller.

"It forced us to do things differently on defense and we already knew we weren't going to match up well with Diaz on the inside," Miller added.

A breakout game

"The key to this game was Shilot hitting the big shots when we needed them," said Southern coach George Whittaker said. "He had been struggling somewhat this season and it was good to see him break out tonight."

The Blue Devils (8-13), jumped out to a 12-11 first-quarter lead after falling behind 7-4 as David Ferrando (11 points) and Brock Christie each made 3-point shots to bring the Blue Devils back.

But the Indians hit three straight 3-pointers, two by Shilot, to jump into a 22-15 lead and never trailed again.

Shilot and Diaz scored 14 of the Indians' 15 points in the third quarter as Southern started pulling away with a 46-33 lead.

The Indians made 8-of-11 free throws in the final quarter as Southern outscored the Blue Devils 23-11 and coasted to victory.

Joe Petro led the Blue Devils with 16 points.

East Canton 58, Jackson-Milton 42

In the tournament's second game, East Canton jumped out to an early 16-3 advantage and was never threatened by Jackson-Milton.

The Bluejays (6-15) were playing without their top scorer and ball handler in Andrew Whitmer, who was injured in the team's regular season finale and was on crutches Tuesday night.

"We lost Andrew in the final game of the season and to try and replace him in just one week's time was just impossible," said Jackson-Milton coach Steve Sachire.

"He's the heart and soul of this ball club, but I was still proud at the way these young kids stayed in there," Sachire said. "We cut their lead to six at one point, but with two sophomores and a freshman in there at times we just couldn't hold up."

After East Canton (4-17) went on a 13-0 run to jump out to the 16-3 advantage, the Bluejays came right back with a 6-0 run of their own to cut the lead to 17-9 at the end of the quarter.

Mark Balent, who led Jackson-Milton with 23 points, scored two straight baskets, one a 3-pointer, at the end of the second quarter to pull the Bluejays to within six points, 26-20.

But East Canton opened the third quarter with seven straight points to jump out to a 33-20 advantage and held a 43-31 edge going into the final quarter.

Jackson-Milton, again behind Balent, came back with a 9-3 run and cut the lead to six points again, 46-40, with 4:43 remaining.

East Canton then outscored the Bluejays 12-2 over the final four minutes to post the win.

Matt Gooch led the winners with 21 points while David Scott added 12. East Canton will go up against No. 2 seed McDonald on Friday at 8 p.m.




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