By John bassetti
In a game of hustling, muscling and tussling, the outcome boiled down to a missed 3-point goal as time ran out, leaving Youngstown Christian a 75-73 winner over Wellsville for the Divison IV district championship.
Jordan Sloan’s miss from long range at Struthers Fieldhouse on Friday night sealed Youngstown Christian’s first trip to a regional semifinal since the 2008-09 season.
“I was hoping we could withstand it [Wellsville’s near-comeback] and we did, but not as pretty as I would have liked,” Youngstown Christian coach Dolph Carroll said of his Eagles, who were outscored, 18-5, over a span of 3:20 in the fourth quarter.
It took a basket and two free throws by Tymere Dubose, a layup by Jayquan Yanno and two free throws by Darien Townsend in the final 2:43 to stay a shade ahead of Wellsville (21-4), which was looking for its first district crown since 1984.
Instead, Youngstown Christian (15-8) is headed to the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse regional semifinals, despite making just five of 14 free throws to Wellsville’s 20 of 29.
But Carroll was more concerned with missed field goals.
“From my perspective, we didn’t finish very well,” he said. “We missed a lot of chip shots.”
The Eagles reached the regional finals during the 2008-09 season, but then lost to Lutheran East.
Yanno had a team-high 17 points, while Townsend and Daylen Williams had 15 apiece for the winners.
Although Dubose scored all eight of his points in the fourth period, he missed the first of a one-and-one attempt with 1.5 seconds remaining.
“I wanted to miss it because not even two seconds were left and I wanted to get the ball in our hands,” Dubose said.
Instead, scrappy Seth Bradford got the rebound and flipped it to Sloan, whose shot was off.
Dubose, who picked up his fourth foul with 2:43 left, said his coach told him to play smart, but aggressive.
“He said, ‘If you have to let them go, let them go, but make sure you defend,’ ” Dubose said.
Yanno had a decisive basket when he made a layup with 31 seconds remaining.
Yanno was standing alone near the timeline, yet on Wellsville’s side of the floor when he got an outlet pass from Dubose.
“They were playing up and forgot about me,” Yanno said of his location. “Give our defense much of the credit, especially on the defensive glass. Coach warned us to hustle rebounding, so we got on it big-time.”
Carroll substantiated Yanno’s contribution.
“He’s a clutch shooter,” the coach said, “but Tymere hit him head-on and he finished a great layup that got us back into it.”
Nate Scott had a game-high 28 points for Wellsville, which loses only one senior, a non-starter.
“We were down quite a bit [16 at 60-44], but we’ve been down early in other games and came back and won,” said David “Bug” Thompson. “Missed layups killed us,” said the coach whose team converted just 24 of 64 shots.
He said that Youngstown Christian’s press caused his Tigers to lose composure, especially in the first half.
“McDonald [a team Wellsville split with] pressed the same way and we didn’t have any trouble, but, tonight, we forgot what we were doing,” Thompson said. “The game was going so fast. It’s faster than we’re used to — no better team than we’ve been playing, just a lot faster.
“Their defensive pressure was quick. We haven’t seen quick guards like that — and physical; a lot of body contact out there, but both sides played like that and they [officials] let us.”
Wellsville’s other losses were to Southern Local and Beaver Local.
Youngstown Christian will meet either Berlin Hiland or Hannibal River in a regional semifinal.