On opening night of the 2018 OHSAA boys basketball Div. III Wooster District Tournament, the 10th-seed Orrville Red Riders (7-16) squared off for the third time this season against Principals Athletic Conference neighbor and seventh-seed Tuslaw Mustangs (9-14). Orrville’s offense found its rhythm in the second quarter, and the Red Rider defense locked down the Mustangs on their way to a 61-50 sectional semifinal victory.
Ben Underwood, Orrville’s sophomore big man, picked a great time to play his best game all season. Underwood carried the load early for Orrville as he scored eight of his game-high 19 points, which included two 3-pointers in the opening period to give Orrville a 16-12 edge.
Tuslaw was dealt a big blow in the second quarter when senior Austin Patterson was removed from the game with what appeared to be a badly sprained ankle. Orrville coach Sly Slaughter recognized the disadvantage Tuslaw would be in without their leading scorer and top post defender. “You hate to see a kid go down with an injury, especially a player as good as Austin Patterson. He has been a thorn in our side for the last two years and is obviously a good player and a good kid. I hated to see him get injured in his last game.”
Without the 6-foot, 5-inch post to help carry the offense and prowl the paint on defense for the Mustangs, Orrville aggressively attacked the basket. Junior guard Logan Domer opened the second quarter for the Red Riders by crossing up his defender and draining a big step-back 3-pointer to keep Orrville’s offense rolling. Domer scored seven in the quarter while Orrville’s defense held Tuslaw’s offense to six points without Patterson to help. Orrville held a comfortable 34-18 lead at halftime and never looked back.
Slaughter was pleased with the effort from his team in getting the tourney win. “I thought our kids did a good job of coming out and playing hard tonight. We played good team basketball. We shot the ball really well and were balanced with our scoring. Defensively we forced them into taking some tough shots and forced some turnovers that resulted in some easy baskets early on that helped our confidence.”
In addition to Underwood’s big night, Domer finished with 15 points, and junior guard Ben Summers banged his way to another 13 for the Red Riders. Freshman guard D’Vontez Brown chipped in seven points. Orrville drained eight from behind the arc and also had a nice night at the charity stripe, where the Riders made 9-of-12 for the game and 7-of-10 in the fourth quarter to keep Tuslaw from getting within reach.
Orrville travels to number-three-seed Triway on Friday, March 2 at 7 p.m. to face the PAC rival Titans for the third time this season, this time with the sectional title on the line. Orrville won the first matchup with Triway on Dec. 22, 57-54. Triway won the second contest on Jan. 30, 70-47.
Slaughter looks forward to the challenge for his young squad. “It’s always tough when you play a team for the third time in a season. We did it tonight, and we will have to do it again on Friday. There are no tricks or surprises. We know what they do best; they know what we do best. It will be a matter of which team executes the best and plays the hardest.”
The Mustangs were led by Justin Carroll with 10 points. Zeke Yost finished with eight points, and Cole Friedly chipped in seven points for Tuslaw. The Mustangs finish their 2017-18 campaign with a record of 9-14.