Southern upends No. 3 seeded McDonald, 58-47
Josh Diaz scored 35 points to send the Indians into district play next week.
STRUTHERS -- The Southern Local High basketball team's biggest postseason win in 15 years has the unheralded Indians making a date for a district semifinal game.
Friday at Struthers Fieldhouse, senior post player Josh Diaz pumped in 35 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, to lead Southern (12-10) to a 58-47 victory over Tri-County League rival Columbiana, the Division IV tournament's third seed.
"This is very big for us -- we made history tonight for Southern," Diaz said of the Indians' third sectional final win and first since 1990.
Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., the Indians will play second-seeded McDonald (19-2), which cruised past East Canton (4-18), 53-38.
"Scoring 35 feels good, but getting the win feels even better," Diaz said. "I couldn't have done it without my [teammates]. They would drive, draw the defense and then dish it to me. It's all about the team."
Southern 58, Columbiana 47
Although Columbiana reduced a 22-8 deficit to 39-35 at the end of the third quarter, Clippers coach Herman Miller said the game was lost because of how hard his players had to work to get back in it.
"We dug ourselves way too big of a hole early," Miller said. "We came out and miscued about everything we [could]. It think it was 20-5 where we were down before we actually started to play [well]."
Down 30-21 at halftime, Jared Patton scored seven points and Eric Bailey five as the Clippers outscored the Indians 14-9 in the third quarter to get back into the game.
"They did a good job to cut it down in the third quarter, but they used up a lot of energy to get back in the game," Southern coach George Whittaker said. "So in the fourth quarter [that helped us] pull away."
Diaz put the game away by scoring the first 10 points of the fourth quarter. He added seven more down the stretch as the Indians opened up a 54-39 lead.
Miller said the Clippers' biggest problem wasn't the fourth-quarter collapse.
"No disrespect to [Diaz] as a player, but he was not the difference in the game -- our start changed the complexion of everything," Miller said.
David Earich scored eight points and pulled down nine rebounds in the second half for the Indians.
Eric Ostrander and David Vitko led the Clippers with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Despite losing twice to the Clippers in TCL play, Whittaker said his team anticipated the rematch.
"The first game [against them], we played horrendous. In the second game, Diaz turned his ankle three minutes into the game," Whittaker said. "We had a lot of confidence going in so we would have been disappointed if we hadn't played well."
McDonald 53, East Canton 38
The Blue Devils' 18-6 edge in the first quarter was enough to keep them comfortably ahead of the Hornets in the final 24 minutes.
"For the first quarter and a half, we were playing great defense," McDonald coach Jeff Rasile said. "We were switching a lot and I think they [the Hornets] were a little confused because we rotate defense so much.
"But from that point on, we got a little sloppy and that's not how you want to finish, but overall it was a pretty good performance against a team that beat Canton Heritage," Rasile said. "We had some concerns -- they're big, they're strong, they're athletic."
James Beedle led the Blue Devils' balanced offense with 15 points while Andy Timko had 13, Mark Macali 11 and Tyler Stanley nine.
Columbiana's early exit from the tournament didn't stun Rasile.
"Nothing surprises me anymore in playoffs," Rasile said. "Diaz is a wonderful basketball player and I knew it was going to be a war tonight [with Columbiana]."
Won't look ahead
With a potential district finale game against Sebring looming, Rasile said his team won't be caught looking ahead.
"They [Southern] are obviously on a high, but we won't have a letdown," Rasile said. "We have to come play our game and if we do that, we'll be fine."
David Krider led the Hornets with 12 points.