By Doug Chapin
HOWLAND — Fans at Wednesday’s boys Division III sectional doubleheader had to wonder why Newton Falls coach Roy Sembach was calling a timeout with 1:59 left in the third period and his Tigers ahead of Mineral Ridge, 49-18.
The reason soon became apparent when the public address announcer revealed that the Tigers’ six-foot-10 senior post Marcus Fowler had reached the 1,000-point plateau for his career.
Fowler finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds as the top-seeded Tigers (20-2) rolled over the Rams (3-18) by a score of 74-35.
Newton Falls will play fourth-seeded Pymatuning Valley Monday at 7 p.m. in a district semifinal. The Lakers (16-5), who beat Garrettsville Garfield 47-41 in Wednesday’s second game, have eliminated Falls from tournament play each of the last two seasons, including last year’s district championship game.
“That was a wonderful accomplishment for Marcus from where he’s come from,” Sembach said. “I remember him all the way back in first grade when he was coming to our camps. He has really progressed greatly and he has worked very, very hard to get where he is. He earned everything that he has achieved.
“To get 1,000 points in our program I think is really special because A, we tend to have a lot of guys who can score and B, we hang our hat on our defense and we tend not to play real high-scoring games.”
Mineral Ridge was led offensively by Zach Kiger with 13 points and Justin Lasher with 12.
Newton Falls was its usual stingy self on defense, holding the Rams to 23 percent (12-for-52) shooting for the game, including 12 percent (3-for-25) in the first half. The Tigers scored the first nine points of the first quarter and the first 10 points of the second quarter on the way to a 32-10 halftime lead.
“I’m glad Ridge was not shooting well in the first half or it could have been a ballgame,” Sembach said. “We had a ridiculous amount of turnovers for us. We need to take better care of the ball, we were just not thinking like we should.
“We preach that our sole goal in every game is to win the next possession, no matter who we’re playing, no matter what their record is. When we worry about winning possessions, everything else takes care of itself. I don’t think we were quite as focused on that this evening.”
Fowler and fellow senior Todd Medallis, the Tigers’ point guard, are constants in the Newton Falls lineup. In the other three positions, Sembach rotates six players. The Tigers’ ultimate success in the tournament could hinge on the performance of those six.
“They have really played well all year,” Sembach said. “In that group of six we have two seniors, [Matt] Novotny and [Joe] Zigler, who do a steady, solid job for us usually every evening.
“The other four are younger players, two juniors[Brian Sole and C.J. Peaco], a sophomore [Tyler Kernen] and a freshman [Cody Dillon] and they have improved all season. They are at the point where we are very comfortable putting them in the game in pressure situations They probably have been the biggest reason for us getting steadily better down the stretch.”