WOOSTER — Come tournament time, it’s just best to rely on your defense.
Oberlin did just that in beating Waynedale 45-37 on Friday night to win the Wooster Division III district title.
The Phoenix held the Golden Bears to just 14 field goals in advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001. Oberlin, the lone Lorain County team still alive, will play the winner of tonight’s Leavittsburg Labrae-Youngstown Ursuline game at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse on Wednesday at 8 p.m.
The second-seeded Phoenix enters the regional with an 18-7 record. Waynedale, the tournament’s third seed, finished at 17-8. Waynedale had eliminated top-seeded Norwayne to reach Friday’s final.
“We live and die with our defense,” Oberlin coach Kurt Russell said. “Holding any varsity team to 37 points — that says a lot. This whole tournament there wasn’t a team that scored more than 50 points on us. Our defense paid off.”
Oberlin, with senior Jason Moore scoring 11 of its 23 first-half points, maintained its advantage through halftime. But it was the way the Phoenix survived Waynedale’s one decent stretch in the third quarter that paved the way to the title.
“Our defense is the key,” said Moore, who finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds and a couple of steals and blocked shots. “If we score two points and they don’t score any, what’s the difference? We picked it up, played together and got the win.”
“Jason just took over the ballgame,” Russell said. “I thought the whole team in general did an excellent job.”
The Bears came out with a sense of urgency to start the second half and took the lead at 28-25 midway through the third quarter. Oberlin made just one field goal in eight attempts while Waynedale was a perfect 5-of-5.
The only points the Phoenix had in the quarter came from sophomore Demonte Taborn, who finished the quarter by hitting a layup in the final minute to pull Oberlin within 28-27 as the fourth quarter began.
“We didn’t panic,” Russell said. “We maintained our composure.”
“My team just trusts me to score,” said Taborn, who was 2-of-3 from the foul line in the final 1:44. “The team just pulled together.”
Waynedale went the final 4:10 of the third quarter and 4:03 of the fourth without scoring as Oberlin took command at 34-28 and the Phoenix cashed in on just enough of its 13 free throws (seven) down the stretch to maintain the cushion.
“(Oberlin) picked up the pressure,” Waynedale coach Erich Riebe said. “They took a timeout and we just didn’t respond well. Up to that point, we had made five out of five in the paint and then we missed our next 12.”
“We just played our game,” Oberlin junior Charles Davis said. “We played good ‘D’. We switched it up a lot just like we did in practice. We knew their plays.”
“We told the kids we never get rattled,” Russell said. “We told ourselves if we just remain calm, if we could get a run that we are known for, we’d be all right.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oberlin 45, Waynedale 37
WAYNEDALE (37): Matt Kick 2-1-5, Kagen Luedemann 1-0-2, Ryan McPhern 0-0-0, Ben Kick 2-0-4, Brandon Hawkins 5-2-13, Kevin Short 3-4-11, Matt Cottrill 0-0-0, Zac Keim 1-0-2, Austin Simon 0-0-0. Totals 14-7-37.
OBERLIN (45): Jason Moore 7-6-21, Demonte Taborn 2-2-6, Charles Lewis 4-0-8, Marcus Bailey 1-2-4, Noland Isom 2-0-4, Dante LaRiccia 1-0-2, Devante Hougland 0-0-0. Totals 17-10-45.
Waynedale 6 12 10 9 — 37
Oberlin 13 10 4 18 — 45
Three-point goals: Waynedale 2-8 (Hawkins, Short), Oberlin 1-8 (Moore); Field goals: Waynedale 14-40 (35 percent), Oberlin 17-45 (38 percent); Free throws: Waynedale 7-8 (87.5 percent), Oberlin 10-16 (62.5 percent); Rebounds: Waynedale 25 (B.Kick 7), Oberlin 32 (Moore 14); Turnovers: Waynedale 14, Oberlin 12; Total fouls: Waynedale 15, Oberlin 13; Fouled out: Short.