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Pilots Win Second OVAC Title, Crush Crusaders

By Staff | Feb 21, 2018

The 2018 River Pilots OVAC Class-AA Champions. Photo by Bruce Crawford

The River Pilots went on a 17-5 third-quarter run, en-route to a 55-39 victory over Steubenville Catholic in the OVAC Boys Class 2A Basketball Championships. The action occurred Feb. 17 inside the Ohio University Eastern Gymnasium.

It might have taken nearly five decades since they last won in 1973, but the the No. 1 seed River Pilots had to do it the old-fashioned way, (defense, rebounding and outstanding shooting) to get the much deserved victory over No. 2 seeded Steubenville Catholic Crusaders.

Steubenville Central and River played to a 11-11 draw, with Donnie Vandebourne tallying a pair of long three-pointers and a pair of free throws to lead the Crusaders’ attack, while Lukas Isaly and Dillon Grimes each tallied a three-ball and a two-pointer to pace the Pilots.

In the second period, the Crusaders jumped out to a 5-0 run, but the Pilots’ Stone Thompson swished a three-pointer to halt the run, but started one for the Pilots as Isaly followed with two back-to-back triples that ended a Pilots’ 9-0 run.

Vandebourne and A.J. Connor added a back-to-back triples to go up 22-20, and two more freebies by Vandebourne to give Steubenville a 24-22 lead with 32 ticks of the clock left in the first half.

Photo by Bruce Crawford In the photo is the River Pilots Lukas Isaly scoring his 2,000th point of his four year career from the free throw line.

Meanwhile, Isaly was fouled on a shot from beyond the arc and drilled all three to trot into the locker room at the half, down 24-23.

In the third period, both teams couldn’t get anything going until Grimes sank a triple at the 5:20 mark to open the scoring, while Isaly followed with a pair of made free throws to give River a lead it would never relinquish.

Conner picked the Pilots pocket and finished it with a layup, but Thompson scored a floater in the paint, while Isaly grabbed a rebound and went coast-to-coast. This caused the Crusaders to call a time-out to talk things over.

After the break, Drew Dietz swished a three-pointer, and Isaly took a charge to give the Pilots a chance to score the final points of the quarter. Thompson was the to-go guy and connected on a deuce that gave River a 38-26 advantage heading into the final period. Dietz made sure that Steubenville would get a chance to score in the final seconds with a steal to close out the period.

Isaly pushed the Pilots lead to 40-26 with a deuce to open the final period of play. However, the Crusaders went on a 6-0 run that was capped off with a Connor triple.

Photo by Bruce Crawford The Pilots’ #2 Drew Dietz grabs one of his game-high eight rebounds in the fourth quarter.

But Dietz pushed the Pilots’ lead back up to double-digits with a pair of free throws, while Cody Hupp finished off a mini Pilot run with a deuce.

After a pair of Crusader free throws, Thompson ripped the cords for a deuce, but Vandebourne lifted a very long basket from well beyond the arc at the 3:05 mark to close the gap into single digits.

However, Isaly scored six straight points to put the nail into the coffin.

The Crusaders’ Vandebourne and Connor were the only two that scored buckets, with Vandebourne leading the way with 23 points, and Conner finished with 13 points.

Isaly tallied a game-high 31 points, including three buckets from beyond the arc, while Thompson finished with nine markers, and Grimes eight points. Dietz scored six points to go with his game-high eight rebounds, while Hupp finished the Pilots’ scoring with three points.

Photo by Bruce Crawford The Pilots’ Dillon Grimes lets loose a basket from beyond the arch in the third period.

“This is pretty sweet,” said River Head Coach Mark Romick. “To double up with what the girls did last weekend, is great for both programs. It’s great for the kids. You can’t be happier for our seniors. They’ve put in a lot of time, and the kids have worked really hard.”

Romick went on to say, “These kids came out of football late, and people said that would be a detriment, but it wasn’t because the kids got into basketball shape pretty quick. I think the success they enjoyed in football carried over into basketball.”

The Pilots will have wrapped up their regular season against Frontier Tuesday before heading into sectional play.


River Heading To The Dance, Tops Toronto, 54-24

Lukas Isaly Tallies 2,000th Point In Win

Lukas Isaly drained the second of two free throws to push the Pilots all-time male scoring leader to 2,000, helping to lead River to the OVAC Class 2A championship game with a 54-24 victory over the Toronto Red Knights on Feb. 13, inside R.L. Potts Gymnasium.

It didn’t look like Isaly and company would be hard-pressed to score very much in the Class 2A semifinals as scoring didn’t come easily in the first half.

Toronto came into the game with a game-plan, and they pretty much accomplished what they set out in the opening period and half.

Toronto opened the scoring with a rebound put-back; however, the Pilots matched it with a pair of Cody Hupp free throws, knotting the game up midway through the opening period.

Teammate John Murphy got open underneath and tacked on a deuce to give River a lead they never relinquished at 4-2, that would end the first quarter scoring.

The game wasn’t a stall by no-means, but each team took their time and looked for openings to cash in. However, there weren’t too many chances to score as both teams played outstanding defense in limiting good looks to score.

The second period was much of the same, but the Pilots found creases in the Red Knights’ armor, and netted seven points to only two baskets for Toronto. Isaly finally got on the scoreboard about mid-quarter for his only points of the half.

However, the 6-4 junior John Murphy was undercut going to the basket and fell hard. After a few minutes, he moved a little and left with assistance, and never returned.

With Murphy sidelined for the rest of the game, both teams continued playing hard – with not many fouls being called on either. Toronto had six called in the opening half, while River was only issued one.

With only three baskets made by Toronto, and four by River – including a pair of free throws for 18 total points, you would hope the game would turn-around in the second half.

Again, it took several moments for the Pilots to catch a Knight and get with the program of scoring some points. After a pair of deuces from Hupp, off an assist by Drew Dietz and Isaly, the party had just started.

From this point, Isaly took over, grabbing rebound after rebound and going coast-to-coast with bucket after bucket; it didn’t take long for the River scoreboard to outweigh the Knights.’ Adding to the mix was a pair of three points, and Dietz’ first bonus-bomb of the season, giving the hosts a 21-point period and holding the Knights in check with eight points for a 32-14 advantage.

There was no stopping the Pilots in the fourth period as Isaly led the way with 14 of River’s 22 points in the fourth – that included his 2,000 point off a free throw and a trio of long bonus bombs for good measure.

The Pilots were called for four fouls in the second half of action, while the Red Knights were only caught twice, with neither team in the bonus.

Isaly led all scorers with 26 markers, including five three-pointers, while Hupp collected 16 points. Dietz chipped in with six points, that included a basket from beyond the arch. John Murphy and James Hendershot each finished with a deuce.

Nate Karaffa and Lucas Galczyncki each paced Toronto with six points.

Not only did Isaly reach the 2,000 point plateau, he became only the 18th OVAC player to score 2,000 points.

Isaly was more excited to be playing in the OVAC championship than he was about his 2,000 points.

“We’ve made the OVAC tournament each year, but we’ve also come up short every time, even of getting to OUE,” Isaly stated. “To be able to get a big win at home, and now head to the championship game, is special and something I’ve dreamed about for a long time.”