KETTERING — Dayton Carroll found the hot shooting hand early on, weathered a Knights second-half comeback, and hit free throws down the stretch to upset No. 3 seeded Kettering Alter, 53-42, in the Division II sectional semifinals, Wednesday, March 1 at the James S. Trent Arena.
Carroll, the tournament’s No. 10 seed with a losing record, had lost to Greater Catholic League Co-Ed North champion Alter twice during the regular season. But after a 3-point barrage in the first quarter, the Patriots were in command early.
“It’s called basketball. Ups and downs, baby!” Carroll coach Tim Cogan explained about his team’s crazy win. “We tell our kids all the time how it’s a roller coaster ride. You don’t stay too low. You just have to get back in there and battle.”
The Patriots hit seven 3-point shots in the first half. They’d hit just 28.6 percent of their 3-point tries for the season.
With the upstart Patriots out in front by a shocking 31-15 score at halftime, Alter (19-4) battled back in the third quarter, outscoring their GCL foe 17-4 in the period, to cut the Carroll lead down to three points, 35-32. But clutch free throws in the final period by Eli Ramsey (8 of 9 in the quarter), Stafford Stevens (3 for 3), Joe Cogan and T.K. Robinson (a combined 3 for 6) put the Knights away.
Stafford led Carroll (11-12) with a game-best 18 points scored, Robinson drilled three 3-pointers in the opening quarter and finished with 15 points scored, and Ramsey ended up with 12 points.
“We’ve dealt with adversity a few times this year where we’ve lost a few games by 1-2 points. Our goal, as far as earning a winning season, was about learning about life. We had to teach these kids to stay together and to deal with the adversity. ‘You’re young men. I did it. You’ve gotta learn it. And if we stick together, good things will happen,’” Cogan explained.
“Tonight, great things have happened.”
Robinson said a good week of practice carried over to Wednesday night’s game.
“Coach told us to come in shooting the ball with confidence, and we did that,” Robinson said. “During practice we weren’t knocking down as many shots, but today we were knocking down those shots, and it helped us win this game. … It feels amazing to win this game, to put them out. They beat us two times during the regular season, and they put us out of the postseason last year.”
Alter coach Eric Coulter admitted that it’s always hard to play a familiar league opponent.
“You can’t hide any secrets when you’re playing a tough team from the same league,” Coulter said. “It comes down to playing well. … We did not play well. And what I mean by that is, we played hard, but I thought that missing free throws (6 for 21 from the foul line) hurt us. We were pressing, fouling them to stop the clock and trying to get back in it, but when you miss a lot of free throws, that was a big key right there.
“We wouldn’t have been in the position (of coming back) if it weren’t for the play of Dominic Laravie. My position was to let him go (despite four fouls), but we were unfortunate when he fouled out, there’s no question.”
Laravie was Alter’s lone scorer in double figures with 14 points. The 6-foot-6 senior was a rebounding factor and a strong defensive presence for the Knights, but he fouled out of the game with his team down 45-35 with 2:39 left to play.
After an 11-point loss at Alter on Jan. 6, and then a 1-point loss at Carroll on Feb. 7, Cogan said his team wanted another shot at beating the Knights.
“I know from going to Carroll and the way things have been in the past, people fear Alter. We do not fear Alter. You could see it in their eyes. We wanted to play this game, and my guys wanted to play Alter again. We wanted another shot,” Cogan said.
Carroll advances to the sectional title game against either No. 8 seed Middletown Fenwick or No. 6 seeded Dayton Ponitz. That game will take place at 6:30 p.m. Saturday March 4 at UD Arena in Dayton.
You can reach John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.