He admits that he’d like to see his team scoring more, but deep down inside you kind of get the sense that Jonathan Alder boys basketball coach Brent Cahill really enjoys games like the one his team played Friday night.
His Pioneers (16-4, 11-1) known for their strong defense and ability to execute in tight situations pulled out a 38-37 victory over visiting Springfield Shawnee and won the Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trail Division championship outright in the process.
Winning the league title was something even the coach and his staff may have doubted would be possible at the beginning of the season. But having a team that believes in each other and believes in the coaching staff anything is clearly possible.
“You go into every season with the goal of wanting to win the league title,” Cahill said. “I really thought we were a year or so away from something like this. So many teams in our league are senior-dominated and we’re so young in so many spots.
“But these guys are committed to getting better every day. The team chemistry is as good as it’s been since we’ve been here and that goes a long way. This is such a big accomplishment for our guys, I’m just so proud of them.”
Alder built a double figure second-half lead on the strength of its strong defense and solid execution of its half-court offense. But Shawnee put together a furious fourth quarter rally by getting the Pioneers to speed things up. By using a pressure, trapping defense it made the home team play at a quicker pace and helped to make it close.
Shawnee scored to take a 1-point lead with just :50 to play in the game. Alder called timeout for a set play. Shawnee sniffed out the play and forced the Pioneers to run something else. Alder sophomore Jackie Santa-Emma was fouled on his way to the basket and was sent to the free throw line with the game on the line.
He made both shots to put Alder up 38-37. After a Shawnee timeout Alder’s zone defense shut down the inside and forced a long three-pointer that was off the mark.
This was the fourth or fifth time this season where Alder has trailed in the closing minute and had to execute on both the offensive and defensive end in order to secure a victory.
“It was a great environment and was nice to see our guys execute down the stretch,” Cahill said. “We’ve been in that situation a few times now and we’re getting more and more comfortable with it.”
Jacob Koenig and Jackson Izzard both scored 11 points in the win. Jaron Wheelbarger had six and Santa-Emma finished with five, including the game-winning free throws.
Alder will close out the regular season Friday at home against Kenton Ridge. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m.
Shekinah boys win MOCAL
The Shekinah Christian boys basketball team wrapped up an outright Mid-Ohio Christian Athletic Conference championship with a 52-44 win over Madison Christian Thursday.
But the team followed that up with a disappointing 70-65 home loss to Horizon Science Saturday.
Despite winning the league, Flames coach Keith Lambert wasn’t exactly thrilled with his team’s execution in the win over Madison Christian.
“We didn’t finish well at the rim and lacked defensive intensity,” he said. “In the first match-up we forced 26 turnovers and this time we forced just eight.”
John Michael Hershberger (17 points) and Ben Hershberger (10 points) combined for 27 points on just 12 field goal attempts to lead the Flames (14-5, 11-0). Anthony Conte added eight points and Austin Lynn also added eight points to go with 12 rebounds.
In the setback against Horizon Science, the visitors scored 27 points in the first quarter and then held on for the win. Shekinah had seven players score between six and 16 points, led by Lynn’s 16.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.