By Josh Brown
TROY — It wasn’t the season Troy Christian’s boys basketball team expected.
But that didn’t change anything for coach Ray Zawadzki.
And while the eighth-seeded Eagles’ season did come to an end Wednesday night with a 48-24 loss to No. 2 Southeastern in the second round of the Division IV sectional tournament, Zawadzki made it clear that, though Troy Christian’s run of three straight sectional championships came to an end, something else mattered to him and his team a lot more.
“The season may not have gone the way we wanted it to in number of wins and losses — but if that’s all that matters to me, I’m a pretty shallow person,” he said. “I love coaching kids. I love these kids. And all of these kids got better from day one to right now, and they will be better in the future because of it. That’s what matters to me.”
The Eagles, which entered the season with high hopes, finished 9-14 in a year that was thrown into a tailspin after senior K.C. Kamentz, the team’s returning leader in every statistical category, suddenly departed after the second game of the season. Troy Christian fought back to claim second place in the Metro Buckeye Conference behind Yellow Springs and followed an eight-game midseason losing streak with four straight victories, but the Eagles dropped five of their last six, including Wednesday’s postseason opener after a bye in the first round.
Southeastern (21-3), meanwhile, has won 10 of its last 11, with the one loss coming in the regular season finale to West Liberty-Salem. In fact, two of the Trojans’ three losses this season were to the Tigers, with the other one being in the second game of the year to Tri-Village.
Troy Christian kept Wednesday’s game close for most of the first quarter despite a number of early, slowing the game down and keeping Southeastern from getting out in transition. But after a Troy Christian steal on defense, Southeastern’s Jordan Greene intercepted the outlet pass and nailed a 3 at the buzzer to make it a 14-4 game after one.
“That play at the end of the first quarter was like an arrow through the heart,” Zawadzki said. “We get the stop we want, it’s going to be a seven-point game after one — and then we turn it over and they hit a 3 at the buzzer. Just, ouch.”
The Eagles rallied from that, though, as sophomore post James Anderson scored a pair of tough buckets inside and Luke Dillahunt hit a free throw to close the gap to 14-9, but the Trojans went on a 9-2 run thanks to five more Troy Christian turnovers and led 25-12 at halftime.
At the break, Troy Christian was 5 for 13 from the field and had turned it over 10 times, while Southeastern was 11 for 18 with only five turnovers.
“That play at the end of the first deflated us a bit, but we had a nice 5-0 run to start the second,” Zawadzki said. “Then we have another turnover and they went on a run. We ended up with 25 turnovers on the night. It’s been our Achilles heel all season long, and it’s definitely something we’re going to need to improve on moving forward.”
Things didn’t improve much in the third, either, as the Eagles did not connect from the field, going 0 for 6 with another six turnovers. Southeastern scored the first 13 points of the second half and carried a 42-16 lead into the fourth quarter. Anderson ended the Eagles’ shooting drought with another score in the paint, Peyton Spurlock hit the team’s only 3 in the game and then converted a three-point play that made it 46-24, but it was far too late.
Anderson finished with eight points and six rebounds to lead the Eagles, while Spurlock added seven points — six in the fourth — and three rebounds.
“James can be a big-time player,” Zawadzki said. “He’s going to be challenged in the offseason to take it to the next level. God has blessed him with size and physical ability, and now he has to work to continue developing to get to the next level. If he does that, he can be a real dominant force, especially in Division IV.”
Chase Hayden added four points and six rebounds and Sam Kirkpatrick, Jacob Brown, Seth Wynne, Dillahunt and Ben Schenk each finished with one point.
Trevor King had all 11 of his points in the first half and added six rebounds, while Colton Spencer had all 11 of his points in the second half to lead the Trojans, who move on to face the winner between No. 6 Cedarville and No. 7 Emmanuel Christian in Saturday’s sectional title game. Jake Bertemes added nine points and five rebounds and Andrew Lyons had six points and four rebounds.
(Editor’s note: For results from Wednesday’s late boys sectional tournament games, look in the Friday edition of the Troy Daily News.)
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.