Mineral Ridge’s Zac Hagy, a 6-foot-2, shaggy-haired junior who looks more like the lead bass player in a garage band than a basketball player, took advantage of an opportunity.
Hagy’s break-away one-handed slam, followed by a turnaround fadeaway jumper right before halftime, fired up the Rams for a strong second half as they flew by Lordstown, 61-54, in the first-round of the Division IV sectional at Warren Harding High.
“For a skinny white guy, Nick can get up,” Mineral Ridge coach Chris Kohl said. “He surprises you. When he gets the chance, he’ll be a little ‘showtime’ ”
Hagy’s two shots in the second quarter helped fend off a Red Devils comeback as they closed an early double-digit deficit down to two points. The Rams led 24-18 at halftime.
“They were both huge plays,” Hagy said. “It was coming down to get pretty close and those helped us pull away and find momentum coming into the half.”
It was Hagy’s second dunk of the year, but he’s always a little showtime in practice.
“I even do it over [6-fott-6 center] Ryan Nutter and that’s always fun,” Hagy said. “I knew I could do it. It was nice just showing off for the crowd.”
Not short on confidence, Hagy said that’s really been the key to the Rams’ 15-8 season. Last year, they only won seven games.
“Last year we just came in and said we’d be happy with six or seven wins,” Hagy said. “This year we come in we wanted to get to Maplewood on Friday, then get Windham and make a name for ourselves. We don’t want anybody thinking we’re a nobody or just a pushover.”
The Devils (9-14) made big steps, too.
Under second-year coach Brent Villella, underclassmen-laden Lordstown recovered from a double-digit loss to Mineral Ridge from earlier in the season. They trailed by 16 at one point in the third quarter, but made it interesting with a 22-point fourth quarter.
“There’s never been a minute where they haven’t committed to playing 30 minutes,” Villella said. “In fact, quite a few of our wins down the stretch they had to come back from double digits. We knew we could do it, but we were going up against a tough opponent.”
Nick Johnson led the Devils with a game-high 22 points.
“He is a captain for a reason,” Villella said. “We were very pleased with Nick this whole season. As good of a player he is, he’s an even better person off the court. You love to see guys like that have success.”
Nathan Palmer led the Rams with 15 points, Hagy had 11 with five assists and Nutter scored 12 and had eight rebounds. Half of Mineral Ridge’s first- half points came on second chance opportunities. The Rams outrebounded Lordstown, 24-16.
“That’s one of the things we emphasize is to crash the boards,” Kohl said.” That makes the defense work harder. We’re trying to wear them down and second chance points help do that.”
Corey Phillips added 11 points for the Rams, while Zane Rummell and Brandon Perkins each had six.