CANFIELD, OHIO (WKBN) – The top-seeded South Range Raiders appeared to be a well-oiled machine as they methodically disposed of the ninth-seeded Columbiana Clippers Friday night 61-34 in Division 3 tournament action. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.
With the win, the Raiders improve to 22-1 on the year and will now face the fourth-seeded Canton Central Catholic Crusaders Monday night at Salem High School. The Clippers close the season with a 7-17 mark.
The Raiders had even scoring across the books as five players reached double-figures. Jaxson Anderson had 12 points to lead them, while Mike Cunnigham added 11, with Chris Brooks, Brady White, and Brandon Youngs all netting 10.
“We spread it around a little bit. That wasn’t the plan, it was just to play as well as we could defensively and offensively the points just come from what they are giving us,” Raiders coach John Cullen remarked.
“We ran into a buzz saw tonight,” Clippers head coach Todd Johnson said. “We knew that walking in. We knew that when the draw came out and we knew what we were going up against. We were excited for the opportunity and the challenge.”
The Raiders raced out to a 9-0 lead just two minutes into the contest and never looked back. They would hold a 15-6 advantage at the end of the first quarter. They would stretch their advantage out to 27-points at the 1:24 mark of the second quarter and hold that same lead at intermission at 39-12.
But the Clippers would not go down without a fight as sophomore Hunter Zentner would collect 8 of his 10 points on the night in the third quarter while senior Jared Wilson hit a couple three’s as the Clippers closed to within 18 at 41-23 with just 2:38 remaining in the third frame.
“He’s a very good rebounder for not being more than 5’10,” Cullen commented about Zentner. “One of the best compliments I can give to a player whether from our team or another is that he is a great garbage player. And he is. He’s not real strong at this, or real strong at that, but he just comes up with the ball. And those kind of guys always makes you look bad.”
“The first half we played pretty good defense. The second half, that Wilson kid is a pretty good player,” Cullen explained. “But we got the ship righted after a bad third quarter.”
“We battled,” Johnson said. “That’s a testament to those guys in the locker room. They continued to battle, and they battled for four quarters.”
However, the Raiders would not let the Clippers get any closer as they led 45-26 at the end of the third period, and held them off for most of the fourth. With both teams clearing their benches, the Clippers were able to cut the deficit down to 15 in the final two minutes of the contest.
“It’s very special, especially to go out with a win,” Raiders senior forward Brady White added. “We have done a lot of great things here. I lost two games here since I have been a freshmen. We knew it was the last time playing on this floor and we just wanted to give everyone everything we had. We all gave it our all,”
Cullen did not hold back from his displeasure with the schedule of the tournament as the Raiders have to play again in two days, “That’s a terrible schedule for being the number one seed and having to play Friday then Monday. That’s stupid. There’s no advantage of being the number one seed. But they have the same night we have, so we’ll just have to be more prepared than they are.”
“They have nine seniors,” Cullen added about Central Catholic. “It’s going to be a tough out, but that’s who we have been preparing for a long time.”