By Greg gulas
Daylen Williams’ triple with less than a second remaining helped lift Youngstown Christian to a 52-51 victory over defending champion Mogadore in a Division IV district semifinal Tuesday at the Struthers Field House.
The Eagles will meet Wellsville, a 71-58 winner over Lowellville, in the title game Friday at 7 p.m.
Williams, who had a game-high 23 points, said the play wasn’t designed for anyone specifically, adding that the recent death of his grandfather, Willie Williams, has had a big influence on his recent play.
“My grandfather just passed away two weeks ago and I’ve dedicated this entire tournament to his memory,” he said. “He kept swinging the ball looking for the right opening and shot and it just ended up in my hands.
“I was looking up at the clock as it was winding down and just let the ball fly. I just know my grandfather helped will the ball through the hoop.”
The eight-seeded Eagles raced to the early 8-2 advantage, but Mogadore (19-5) went on a 15-5 run to forge a 17-13 lead after the first eight minutes.
Five points by Austin Mahoney helped the Wildcats build a 33-24 halftime lead.
A bucket by Seth McMillan as time was winding down and 10 points by Williams helped the Eagles pull to within 44-40 with one quarter remaining.
A field goal in the lane by Tymere Dubose pulled Youngstown Christian (14-8) to within 51-49 with 1:23 remaining, setting up Williams’s heroics and its first trip to the title game since 2010.
“This win is special because when we were 7-8, there was no rhyme or reason for us to even think about us being in this position,” said YCS coach Dolph Carroll. “We just beat a well-coached, hard-working, disciplined team.
“Give both teams credit because they played their hearts out. We weren’t pretty, but at this moment that’s secondary.”
In the nightcap, Nate Scott scored 17 of his game-high 23 points in the third quarter to give the top-seeded Tigers, last-year’s district runners-up, a return trip to the title game.
“Our players before the season set a goal to return to the district title game and they’ve just accomplished that goal. Now, they want to get to Canton and the regionals,” Wellsville coach David ‘Bug’ Thompson noted. “Nate [Scott] has been a catalyst offensively for us all year. He’s a three-year starter, 1,000 point scorer and sees the entire court.”
Despite Scott’s 17 points after intermission, two buckets from beyond the arc by Pat Mangine and six points by Nick Ballone kept the Rockets within striking distance at 58-52 with one period remaining.
A stingy Wellsville (21-3) defense then limited Lowellville to just six points in the final stanza.
Lowellville (17-7) finished with its most wins in five decades.
“They [Wellsville] took us out of some of the things we do, but credit our kids because they never quit and fought right to the end,” Lowellville coach Mike Mangine said.