Orrville knocks off top-seeded Norwayne in Div. III district semifinal

It may have been a wicked cold, windy night outside, but inside Wooster High School’s gymnasium during the Div. III Wooster District boys basketball semifinal game between the fourth-seeded Orrville Red Riders and top-seeded Norwayne Bobcats, things got pretty heated. In the end Orrville’s Ben Summers blazed a steady assault on the basket as he scorched the net from the foul line to help lead the third-seeded Red Riders (15-8) to a 60-55 victory over the Bobcats (19-5).

A senior forward for the Red Riders, Summers led the team in scoring, where his aggressiveness on the offensive side of the court paid dividends as he shot a perfect 11-of-11 from the foul line on his way to 18 points for the game. Nine of his 11 points in the second half came from the charity stripe. To say Summers has been locked in with his foul shots might be an understatement. In the past two games he has drained 17-of-19 foul shots.

Orrville coach Sly Slaughter praised his senior’s effort. “He’s pretty good. Last game and this game he realizes as a senior this could be it. He has been laser-focused in practices and in our last two games. Hopefully he can continue that on Friday.”

Orrville’s ability to switch up their defensive scheme during the game kept the Bobcat offense off balance. Slaughter agreed. “I thought when we went to the 2-3 zone, we kind of slowed them down. They were getting some pretty good looks against our man defense, which frustrated us on the bench, but when we went to the 2-3 zone, it slowed them down and made them run some clock.”

Norwayne coach Brian West knew it might be a rough night for Bobcat standout Quinn Hiles before the game started when he learned Hiles was ill.

“Quinn is the motor that makes us go. He texted me this afternoon and wanted to let me know that he wasn’t feeling well at all. He wasn’t able to eat or keep anything down. That just changes the whole complexion of the game. He’s our best defender, our best offensive player. When we get him at 60 or 70 percent, it puts [us] behind the eight-ball to start.”

Hiles’ illness certainly didn’t help, but West admitted the Bobcats could have been more efficient on defense. “What broke our backs tonight was offensive rebounds. They killed us on the offensive glass. When they get second-chance opportunities like that, they were able to knock it down. I thought offensively we got a little stagnant and started to rely on Ben [Draper] and Quinn a little too much. We stood around and watched those guys too much.”

He might have been feeling crummy, but Hiles’ shooting to start the game certainly didn’t show it as he canned two 3-pointers to score six points in the opening frame for Norwayne. Summers opened the game scoring Orrville’s first five points while four other teammates scored buckets to help Orrville build a 14-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Back-to-back buckets by Cayden McDaniel stretched Orrville’s lead to seven with 5:28 remaining in the second quarter, when he scored eight of his 11 total points on the night. But Norwayne’s defense forced Orrville to make some turnovers and ill-advised shots, which gave the Bobcat offense some momentum behind the scoring of Hiles and Draper, who each scored five points in the quarter.

Orrville became their own worst enemy at the tail end of the second quarter. The Red Riders had built as much as a nine-point lead before the Bobcats clawed their way back into the game behind some good old-fashioned hustle that drew Orrville into making some regrettable miscues. As the second quarter ended, Hiles and Jacob Rupp were both rewarded for their hustle as they helped Norwayne climb out of the deficit they were in. By the time the buzzer sounded for intermission, the Bobcats had knotted the game up at 26-26.

In the third quarter Orrville once again built a nine-point lead behind some classic Red Rider man-to-man pressure on the ball. The moment that seemingly turned the game in Orrville’s favor was when Slaughter switched his squad into a 2-3 zone that seemed to be enough to throw Norwayne off balance. West agreed. “It took us a couple of possessions to realize what they were doing and how to attack it.”

Eventually the Bobcats figured out what was being done to them defensively and cut into Orrville’s lead. But at the end of the third quarter, the Red Riders were clinging on to a 40-36 advantage on the merits of Summers’ seven points for the period (five from the foul line).

The fourth quarter brought out the best for both teams on the offensive side of the court. Orrville continued a balanced attack with six different Riders chipping in points in the final period while Norwayne was carried by Draper, sophomore Joey Raudebaugh and sophomore Ameer Cunningham down the stretch.

Orrville played most of the first half without senior guard Logan Domer, due to foul trouble, but he more than made up for it in crunch time. Slaughter admitted his team was in a funk without Domer on the floor. “He is kind of the spark for our team. It gets difficult for us offensively and more importantly defensively when he’s not in the game. When we got him back in the game in the second half, you could see we were a little bit better.”

That might be the understatement of the tournament. In the final four minutes of the fourth quarter, Domer connected on the triple from downtown to give the Red Riders a much needed six-point cushion at 51-45 with 4:20 to play, and he banked in another two points to push the score to 53-45 with 2:45 remaining on the clock. Most importantly Domer defended Hiles with relentless pressure, effectively keeping Norwayne’s top scorer this season in check.

The Bobcats got another quick bucket on an Orrville turnover. Forced to foul in order to stop the clock, Norwayne sent Orrville’s Domer and Marquael Parks to the foul line, where they both split a pair of free-throw attempts, but Norwayne’s junior guard Ben Draper bombed a three-point prayer for the Bobcats to close the deficit to only five points with 0:35 left in the game. The Bobcats stopped Orrville on their next possession, and Norwayne’s Ameer Cunningham stroked a nothing-but-net 3-pointer to trim Orrville’s lead to 58-55 with 0:18.3 on the clock.

Norwayne’s late charge ran out of steam when Summers knocked in two more freebies to help Orrville hold on for the 60-55 victory and a date with the Tuslaw Mustangs in the district final.

D’Vontez Brown, a sophomore guard for Orrville, also had a big night, and Slaughter liked how Brown handled his business against the Bobcats. “The good thing is Tez has been through a lot of battles. He started for us last year and started for us every game this year. He came in with the mind set today that he wants to do everything he can to send his seniors out right.”

Orrville had a different starting lineup against Norwayne than in previous games when senior Cayden McDaniel started in place of junior Ben Amstutz. “Benny started for us for 12 straight games, and I went to him before the game and told him we wanted to go back to our old starting lineup when we were rolling a little bit earlier in the season, and he said, ‘Coach, I’m fine with that. Let’s just go win.’ That’s the kind of player, but more importantly that is the kind of person that Ben Amstutz is. It takes a special person to be him.”

Amstutz led Orrville with six rebounds to go with six points including another great tip-in basket for the second game in a row. Slaughter explained that good things come to those who put in the effort. “The kid lives right, and he works hard all of the time. I really enjoy seeing him getting a little luck with that kind of effort.”

Orrville was led in scoring by Summers with 18 points, followed by Brown (13 points) and McDaniel (11 points) to round out the Red Riders’ scoring in double digits. The Riders made 19-of-47 (40 percent) shots from the field including four triples. Orrville made 18-of-24 (75 percent) from the foul line. The Red Riders held the rebounding advantage 22-18 including 10 offensive boards, five of which were snagged by Amstutz.

Norwayne was led in scoring by Ben Draper with a game-high 19 points, followed by Quinn Hiles and Ameer Cunningham, who each scored 11 points for the Bobcats. Norwayne shot 18-of-45 (40 percent) from the floor including six 3-pointers. The Bobcats made 13-of-22 (59 percent) foul shots.

Norwayne’s 2018-19 campaign might not have ended the way the faithful in Creston had hoped, but Bobcat fans can be proud of the vast improvement the team achieved compared to the seven wins accumulated a season ago. West agrees.

“We won 19 games this year, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of kids than those in [our] locker room right now because our kids do things the right way. To me, sometimes that’s more important than anything. They do things the right way, and that’s going to get them further in life than anything. We’ve got two great seniors in Quinn and Chad [Ramsier] that are going to move on and be very successful young men. I’m super proud of our kids for 19 wins. It was a great year, a fun year to be around those guys.”

Orrville advances to face Principal’s Athletic Conference foe Tuslaw for the third time this season in the Div. III Wooster District final on Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m. Orrville won the previous two PAC-7 match-ups with the Mustangs during the regular season by scores of 57-50 and 58-51. Tuslaw, the sixth-seed, upset the second-seeded Northwestern Huskies 65-61 in their district semifinal on Tuesday, March 5.

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