SALEM — When basketball fans filled out their Division III Salem district tournament brackets, many likely penciled in Campbell and Ursuline to meet in the district finals for the fourth straight year.
It turns out they were half right.
Campbell did its part Tuesday night, advancing to the district championship game for the fourth consecutive season by pulling away in the second half against St. Thomas Aquinas and earning a 50-38 victory in the second semifinal.
The Red Devils (17-5), who are 1-2 in district title games since 2006, will meet a sharp-shooting Waterloo squad (21-1) Friday night, after the Vikings knocked off East Palestine 60-42 in Tuesday’s first contest.
“We certainly hoped to get to this point, but we knew it was going to be tough,” said Campbell coach Brian Danilov. “There are some good coaches and good teams in this tournament. We got here and now we just have to worry about Waterloo. They are always well prepared and don’t beat themselves.
“It was a great team effort tonight against a quality team. They played a lot of different defenses well and we were able score when we needed to and keep their big guys in check. We rebounded and defended well.”
The Red Devils trailed 19-17 at halftime, but got a strong second half, particularly from guards Nate Hodge and Jerah’me Williams, to rally.
The duo combined for 24 second-half points, as Campbell outscored the Knights 33-19 after intermission.
With the game knotted at 24-all, the Red Devils scored five straight points, including a 3-pointer by Williams to build a 29-24 cushion after three periods.
The lead was extended to 35-27 with 5:10 left in the contest on a driving layup by Hodge.
St. Thomas got within five points several times in the final 2 minutes, but the Red Devils closed things out at the free throw line, including two free throws after a Knights’ technical foul in the final 30 seconds.
Williams led Campbell with 20 points, while Hodge added 17.
Waterloo 60, East Palestine 42
After a lackluster shooting effort in the opening half, Waterloo outscored East Palestine 22-8 in the third quarter, converting 8-of-12 shots, to build a 12-point lead and pull away.
The Vikings hit just 3-of-11 triples before intermission and East Palestine’s Ben Gysin scored at will inside, as the Bulldogs led 27-25 at halftime.
The second half was a different story, as the Waterloo defense held Gysin scoreless and guard Tom Herchek torched the Bulldogs from outside, connecting on four 3-pointers.
The Vikings began the third quarter with a 12-0 run to turn a 33-31 contest into a 45-31 lead.
“They just turned up the defensive pressure on us in the second half,” said East Palestine (19-3) coach Tom Bingham. “And in the third quarter everything they shot went in. Tom Herchek was the difference — he showed that he’s a heck of a player.
“They were collapsing down inside on Ben [Gysin] and we weren’t hitting our outside shots tonight. We’re used to making six or seven 3’s, but tonight we just didn’t.”
Herchek led Waterloo with 21 points, including five 3-pointers. Joe Ganoe added 14 points.
East Palestine was paced by Gysin’s 16 points — all coming in the first half.