BOWLING GREEN – The Fayette boys basketball team, much like they have the entire season, fought hard for 32 minutes. But in this battle of two of the top three ranked teams in the state in Division IV, the Eagles met their match in Van Wert Lincolnview.
Led by an aggressive defensive approach, the Lancers bested the Eagles 36-29 Tuesday in the regional semifinal held at the Stroh Center on the campus of Bowling Green State University.
However, while the loss was tough, it does not take away what the Eagles and coach Todd Mitchell accomplished this season.
“I just want to start off by saying how proud I am of my team this year,” said Mitchell in his opening statement after the game. “The most wins in school history. Just a very great group of kids that really work hard in and out of the classroom. They left it on the line every night this year for 26 nights. Like I told them in the locker room, I am proud to call myself their coach.”
Neither team really had momentum in the opening frame as a pair of Alec Bost triples, the second with 3:23 left in the quarter, pulled Fayette within one, 8-7.
Lincolnview’s Derek Youtsey and Chandler Adams each responded with buckets inside to give them a five-point edge after one.
Jerad Seiler gave the Eagles a boost with a jumper to begin the second quarter, but Youtsey got a three-point play and also a jumper of his own, and Adams split a pair at the foul line. This doubled up Fayette at 18-9 with 3:36 to go in the half.
Fayette closed out the scoring in the half with a bucket by Tristen Bates off an assist from Seiler, as well as Joel Smith’s drive and score to trim it to 18-13 at the half.
However, the Lancers defense proved too much in the second half by holding the Eagles to 31 percent (6 for 19) from the field.
“We knew going in they were going to be very aggressive and physical and they did a great job of taking us out of what we wanted to do,” said Mitchell. “And then the second half there we had some chances. We had a couple open looks that didn’t go, a couple free throws that didn’t go that could have maybe changed the outcome. But you have to give them credit, they are as good as advertised.”
Lincolnview was really on their game in the third where they held the Eagles to just four points on 1 for 7 shooting.
Fayette’s lone field goal was a score by Seiler to put it at 20-15 34 seconds into the period. The senior, who is usually the Eagles’ primary scoring threat, was held in check with seven points on 3 of 6 from the field.
“It starts with the pressure (they put on). And then they did a good job fronting down low,” said Seiler on Lincolnview’s defense against him. “It was just hard to get a shot.”
A putback basket for Adams, two free throws for Hayden Ludwig and a steal which led to a three-point play for Ludwig pushed the Lancer advantage to 27-15 with 5:40 left in the third. A stalemate ensued until Smith drew contact on the Lancers and hit a pair from the line with 1:32 to go which made the margin 10 points heading into the fourth.
Fayette missed a total of five free throws in the final period, all in the first two and a half minutes, as well as numerous threes as Lincolnview pushed their lead to 30-19 with 2:46 remaining.
“Them being so aggressive on us I think kind of took our legs out a little bit in the second half,” said the Eagle coach. “A lot of times those shots fall for us. Tonight, they didn’t go for us.”
Fayette did not give in though as Bates scored inside and Bost pegged a triple around Trevor Neate’s free throws for the Lancers to get the Eagles within 32-24 at the 1:03 mark. But that would be the Eagles last bucket until Seiler’s deuce with 19 seconds to go after two free throws for Ludwig, keeping the deficit at eight.
Bost paced the Eagles with 12 points on four three pointers. Bates had just four points but finished with 10 rebounds.
Ludwig had 13 points and Youtsey added 11 to go along with his 10 boards for Lincolnview.
This was just Fayette’s third appearance in the regional, and first since 1995. The Eagles end the season with a 24-2 record, undoubtedly one of the best and most memorable seasons in school history.
“It started off the first game against Maumee Valley Country Day and in the locker room we talked about how this season’s gonna be like writing a book. Every game is a chapter in the book,” said Mitchell. “I don’t read a whole lot of books, but I would buy this book and I would read this book because it’s been an awesome story.
“Tonight it hurts, but we are gonna walk out with our heads high and proud of what we’ve done this year.”
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010
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