Orrville and Triway battle in another classic showdown, Riders escape

It does not matter whether it’s a regular-season game or a win-or-go-home tournament contest. When the Triway Titans (14-10) and Orrville Red Riders (14-8) go toe to toe in boys basketball, area fans are usually in for a treat, and it was no different on Friday, March 1 when the two Principals Athletic Conference rivals squared up in the 2019 edition of the Div. III Wooster Sectional final at Orrville High School’s Bob Knight Gymnasium on Steve Smith Court. The Titans fought hard to the end and almost pulled off the come-from-behind upset, but it was the host Red Riders who hung on for a wild 50-49 victory to end Triway’s season in front of a full house.

For the third time this season, the Red Riders and Titans laced ’em up. Orrville won the previous two regular-season PAC-7 games 67-59 and 58-52. The young Titans had been playing much better basketball as of late, finally overcoming some injuries, and they hit the road ready to play. Orrville’s seasoned roster had dropped their last two games to close out the regular season and had some health issues of their own to worry about. One had to wonder which team would rise to the occasion.

It wasn’t pretty, but experience prevailed in the end. Neither team shot the ball particularly well in what turned into a pretty physical game, and excellent defensive pressure on the ball was largely to blame for the offensive woes for both teams. Both defenses contested every shot attempt, and the shot chart would agree.

Triway protected the ball well as they made only nine turnovers for the game, but the Titans made just 5-of-27 (18 percent) from behind the arc and converted just 16-of-51 attempts from the field (31 percent). The hosts weren’t much better as the Red Riders made 6-of-19 (31 percent) shot attempts from downtown and were successful on just 19-of-48 attempts from the field (39 percent) while committing 13 turnovers for the game. The most glaring stat for the Riders was their futility at the foul line, where they made just 6-of-14 free-throw attempts.

Orrville head coach Sly Slaughter knew his squad needed to be focused on the task at hand. “We knew it was going to be a tough, physical game, and it was going to come down to the last minutes. Both of the other games (with Triway previously this year) were the same way. We were lucky and able to pull away a little bit. We knew it was going to be a tight one.”

Triway head coach Ben Holt knew the game would come down to who could execute. “When you give up 50 points, especially in varsity basketball, you should be able to score 51. I thought our defense did pretty doggone good. I was really surprised by some of the missed shots we had early, so then we had to play catch-up. Down the stretch we got some stops and crucial buckets when we needed them, and it really came down to the fact that we had the lead and we just needed a stop in our final two possessions and we gave up layups. It didn’t work out our way tonight, but it wasn’t because we lacked effort, energy or passion. We had those things. It came down whether we could execute. If our effort, energy or passion were all at 100 percent, our execution was at 30-40 percent, which ultimately cost us the game.”

Neither team set the world on fire to start the game. Triway only made four shots from the floor in the opening quarter. Fortunately for the Titans, three of them were made from behind the arc. It was all knotted up at 11-11 after the end of the first quarter.

David Nolan led Triway with five points in the opening frame and chipped in another four points in the second quarter to help Triway keep pace with Orrville, but the Red Rider’s Logan Domer scored five of his own in the second period to help Orrville have the 25-22 lead at intermission.

At the end of the third quarter, Orrville had extended the lead to 36-31 and pushed it to as much as an eight-point advantage in the fourth quarter behind the sharp shooting from senior Cayden McDaniel, who canned two triples at the beginning of the period to seemingly begin to put Triway away. But the Titans fought back, and Bryce Biggs nailed a clutch 3-pointer to trim Orrville’s lead to three points with just over two minutes to go.

Triway’s defensive pressure forced Orrville into booting he ball on back-to-back possessions, and Biggs swished two FTs to pull Triway within one point of the lead, 46-45, with 1:41 left on the clock. The Red Riders rushed another shot attempt, and Triway’s Kyle Sturgin made a couple of FTs to give the Titans a 47-46 lead with 1:12 remaining.

Orrville regained the lead on the next possession when McDaniel scored with 55 seconds left. Wells drove the basketball from the top of the key on the next possession like a seasoned vet. He stopped short of the lane, spun and floated a fall-away jumper that rattled the rim and fell through the hoop to once again put Triway in front, 49-48, with 18 seconds left in regulation.

That’s when Orrville’s senior leadership stepped up when it mattered most. Ben Summers finished with 17 points and five rebounds for the Red Riders including a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line in the second half, but no shot was bigger than the go-ahead basket provided by the senior forward when he appeared to set a screen for fellow senior Logan Domer but Summers released back to the basket and Domer found him for the game-deciding layup with seven seconds left on the clock.

Slaughter admitted that he may have had a little help in the huddle to draw up the winning play for Orrville. “That’s a play Domer and Cayden and Ben have been running for the last three years. We kind of had things moved around a little bit in the huddle. We had players in different spots in the huddle, and Domer said let’s make sure we put both guys (McDaniel and Summers) on the same side, and Ben told him he was going to slip the screen. That’s just veteran guys knowing the game and knowing what’s gonna happen.”

The game was far from over after Summers’ heroics. There was still plenty of time left on the clock for Triway to get a good shot off for a potential game-winning basket. Holt drew up a play and had the confidence to put the fate of the game in his freshman’s hands. “We just wanted to get down the floor and get the best shot. In that situation I thought we had time to not only get up the floor and get a shot, but one more rebound or tip-in at the end. We got it down there with plenty of time but didn’t get the exact shot that we wanted.”

Channer Wells managed to get the ball up the court, and it looked as if he was going to get a shot off at the basket before he lost control of the ball out of bounds with just three-tenths of a second remaining on the clock, sealing the 50-49 victory for Orrville.

Slaughter wasn’t surprised to see the ball in the freshman guard’s hands. “Channer’s hit some big shots all year long. I just remember back against Chippewa earlier this year: He hit a game-winner at the buzzer. He’s got a lot of moxie to him and is going to be a great young player. We did a good job of staying in front, and luckily he lost the ball.”

With one senior on this season’s edition of Titan basketball, Holt will have the bulk of his squad returning next year. “We have to be able to make the plays down the stretch, and we couldn’t quite put it all together. All these guys are back next season, and we are obviously going to try and use this as motivation, but in the interim it stings.”

Cayden McDaniel made 3-of-4 attempts from behind the arc on his way to a double-double with 11 points including eight scored in the final period to go along with 10 rebounds and five steals. Logan Domer was questionable before the game, due to a knee injury, but he dressed and finished with seven points. “Logan is a warrior. It’s his senior year, and he wants to play.”

Forward Ben Amstutz led the Riders in scoring the first half. He finished with six points and snagged four boards while protecting the rim and diverting several Titan shot attempts. Slaughter appreciated the junior’s effort. “Ben just works hard all the time. He is always in the right spot and doing things right defensively. I was happy to see him knock down a couple of jumpers early, and I think that kind of changed their game plan because they were playing off of him and he wasn’t afraid to shoot it.”

Triway was led by Channer Wells with 12 points, nine scored in crunch time of the fourth quarter, and he nailed seven of eight FT attempts for the game. Older brother, junior forward Chance Wells, made 5-of-16 shots from the field and ended up with 11 points and five rebounds. Sophomore guard David Nolen did most of his damage on offense in the first half, where he scored nine of his 11 total points on 5-of-12 shooting. Junior guard Bryce Biggs finished with eight points.

The Red Riders will face the Norwayne Bobcats in the Div. III Wooster District semifinal at Wooster High School on Monday, March 4 at 7 p.m. The Bobcats beat Chippewa in their Sectional final, 39-38.

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