Never say die Troy Christian edges Tri-Village 48-43 in OT


When Grant Zawadzki fought to get his own rebound on a missed free throw in overtime and drew another foul, giving Troy Christian a four-point lead instead of only a two-point one, he showed the Eagles' never-say-die spirit.
When he stole the ball from Kyle Pipenger with less than 10 seconds left, it was just a fitting ending.
Ten of the sophomore's team-high 20 points came from the free throw line - seven of those in overtime - and the Eagles held off a late charge by the previously-undefeated Patriots to score one of the biggest upsets of the year in a shocking 48-43 victory in the Division IV regional semifinal at Trent Arena Tuesday night.
The Eagles (25-2), who had never even won a sectional title before this season, move on to play Delphos St. John's for the regional championship Friday night.
"Every win is ground-breaking for us right now," an elated and exhausted Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki said. "The kids believe in each other and what we, the coaches, are telling them - and when those two things happen, kids can make special moments."
And Tuesday's fast and furious finish had plenty of those.
A 16-2 run between the first and second quarters gave Troy Christian control of the game with a 19-11 lead - a lead they held nearly the entire game thanks to a wise defensive choice.
"We wanted to apply pressure to (point guard) Matt (Werner) at the top," Zawadzki said. "That way he couldn't look over to (Tri-Village coach) Josh (Sagester) and get the calls from the bench. There was a couple of offensive sets that they weren't ever able to get into that would have been hard for us to defend with our lineup."
That helped limit Tyler Cook and Andrew Willcox to a mere three points in the paint in the first half. Meanwhile, the Eagles buried five first-half 3-pointers - two from senior Nathan Kirkpatrick. And a Holden Varvel drive-and-kick to Zawadzki for 3 right in the half's closing moments gave the Eagles a 21-16 edge.
"We believe in the 3," Zawadzki said. "We hit 188 of them before tonight, and we have four boys that I trust whole-heartedly to shoot it. And really, it was the only offense that we could go to early."
Tri-Village (26-1) fell behind 31-24 after three, but a seven-point run got the dangerous Patriots within one at 31-30 and forced a Troy Christian timeout with 3:58 left in the game. A three-point play by Spencer Thomas, two Zawadzki free throws and one free throw by Christian Salazar blew it up to seven again - but Tri-Village still wasn't done.
Pipenger hit a pair of free throws, then Colton Linkous dove for a loose ball, recovered it while falling to his back and dished to Pipenger for a 3 that cut it to 37-35.
Holden Varvel hit a pair of big free throws, but Pipenger scored again, and Willcox stole the ball from Zawadzki with 17.5 seconds left, giving the Pats one last chance.
"Grant is growing up on the job," Ray Zawadzki said. "It's hard to ask a sophomore to lead your team, but we've done that this year. Tonight, he made some sophomore mistakes - but he made up for them."
Cook - who scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half and overtime - scored the game-tying bucket on an in-bounds play from under the Tri-Village basket, and the Eagles came up empty on a pair of game-winning shot attempts to end regulation.
Pipenger hit a free throw to start overtime and give the Patriots their first lead since the first quarter, but Varvel hit Salazar (eight points, seven rebounds) for a long jumper that gave the lead right back to the Eagles. Cook couldn't tip the ball in after three tries on the other end, and Zawadzki came up with the ball and sank two clutch free throws to widen the gap.
With the score 43-42, Zawadzki was sent to the line again. He made the first and missed the second, but he beat everyone to the ball off the rim and drew another foul. This time, he hit both, and Troy Christian led 46-42.
"That's just the competitive spirit that's inside him," Zawadzki said. "He was not going to be denied."
A free throw by Cook made it a one-possession game, but Zawadzki sank two more free throws to make it 48-43. And as Pipenger brought the ball up the floor for a desperation attempt, Zawadzki swiped it - and the top-ranked team in D-IV's - chances right from him. Spencer Thomas hurled the ball up into the air, and Troy Christian celebrated one more in a growing line of biggest wins in school history.
"Make no mistake, they're the best team in the Southwest District in Division IV," Zawadzki said. "We have nothing but respect for Tri-Village. They're the elite. But we were the best team tonight."
Troy Christian - 48
Matthew Coots 0-0-0, Holden Varvel 1-2-4, Aaron Horn 0-0-0, Spencer Thomas 4-1-10, Logan George 0-0-0, Nathan Kirkpatrick 2-0-6, Christian Salazar 3-1-8, Grant Zawadzki 4-10-20. Totals: 14-14-48.
Tri-Village - 43
Matt Werner 0-2-2, Shade Brubaker 1-0-3, Kaleb Choning 0-0-0, Kyle Pipenger 8-5-23, Colton Linkous 0-0-0, Andrew Willcox 0-1-1, Tyler Cook 6-1-13. Totals: 15-9-43.
Score By Quarters
TC 6 21 31 39 48
TV 9 1624 39 43
3-point goals: Troy Christian - Thomas, Kirkpatrick 2, Salazar, Zawadzki 2. Tri-Village - Brubaker, Pipenger 2.
Records: Troy Christian 25-2. Tri-Village 26-1.