Pilots Capture Section Crown
The No. 2 seed River Pilots punched ticket to the District IV Co-Championship after topping No. 8 seed Tuscarawas Central Catholic in the District IV Sectional championship March 2 inside a packed R.L. Potts Gymnasium.
The pace of the sectional championship was slow in the opening two periods of the game, and the Pilots were only up, 17-12 at the half.
The River Pilots’ Lukas Isaly scored all 12 of the Pilots third period points, starting with a three-ball. He then added four straight free throws after a shooting foul and a pair of technical fouls given to the Saints head coach for arguing a call. It broke open a close game to give the hosts a 29-20 advantage heading into the fourth period.
“I thought that was a big turning point,” said River Head Coach Mark Romick. “It gave us a boost. But, you have to give TCC credit. They came back and went on a little run of their own.”
The Tusky Saints went on a 8-0 run, making the score 24-20, keyed by a pair of baskets from beyond the arch, forcing Coach Romick to call a time-out.
The Pilots defense rose to the challenge that their coach laid out after the break, with Isaly finishing the third with three straight free throws and a steal and a deuce for their 29-20 lead with one stanza remaining.
Isaly added another two points off another steal and two freebies to push the Pilots advantage to 31-20 and extended it to 13 points with another Isaly steal and bucket inside the five minute mark.
The Tusky Saints scored five straight points to close the gap to 33-25 with a little over four minutes and change remaining as the Pilot defense fell off a little.
The Saints then had to foul, and the Pilots would only sink half of their final 18 tries and a Isaly steal and deuce down the stretch to seal the hard-fought game.
The Pilots’ student section was filled with moms while River alumni women kept the River crowd on their feet with the help of the Pilot cheerleading squad.
“There’s an old-time coach that used to be here with about 600 wins; he used to say you better be able to dance all dances,” Romick said. “Basically, it comes down to each possession.
“It’s really, really important to be smart about them. And I thought our kids did a super job. It’s very tough for 16-, 17-year-olds to stand there and hold the ball when 400 people are sitting there yelling at you to shoot it.
The kids just play so hard. That’s just the epitome of all the kids. We play hard and we play good defense. Defense wins you games.”
Isaly led all-scorers with 32 points, including a pair of three-pointers, and 14-17 from the charity stripe. He also had 12 steals for a double-double. Dillon Grimes opened the game with a three-pointer and added a free throw for four points, while Drew Dietz sank a deuce and a pair of free throws. He also hauled in a game-high nine rebounds.
In addition, Cody Hupp tallied a deuce, while John Murphy, Colton Lawrence and Stone Thompson each sank a free throw.
Tusky Central’s Justin Pelktz and Braden Cullen each scored a team-high 11 points to pace the Saints.
The win pushed the River Pilots school record to 23 wins against one loss, while Tuscarawas Central Catholic dropped to 9-15.
River will play the top seed Strasburg Tigers Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m at Meadowbrook High School.
Pilots Moving On, Beat Seminoles
On February 27th, inside a packed R.L. Potts Gymnasium, the River Pilots defeated the Seminoles of Monroe Central 44-30 in the OHSSA Division IV District Tournament. With the game all knotted up at 15-15 heading into the second half, the Pilots outscored Monroe Central, 29-15 in the second half to gain a hard-fought win.
The Pilots’ District Player of the Year Lukas Isaly scored five of the Pilots 10 first quarter points, while Stone Thompson swished a triple that gave the hosts a 10-7 advantage. However, the Seminoles held the Pilots to five points, all scored by Isaly, and tied things up heading into the locker room.
After the break, Isaly and Co. held the Seminoles to five markers, while the Big Red Machine started to light it up, outscoring the ‘Noles, 15-5, with Isaly leading the charge with 13 points, including 5-5 at the free throw line.
Isaly scored nine points in the fourth period, while Thompson swished another triple to pace the Pilots. Isaly outscored Monroe Central, 33-30, including knocking down a three-ball and making 11-12 free throws. Thompson, scored all six of his points from beyond the arch, Cody Hupp scored four points, and John Murphy with two points.
Ragan Pletcher scored 13 points, including three bonus bombs to lead Monroe Central.