Elijah Lerma, Kaden Frenn lead Fayette past Locos in tournament

By Joe Blystone - For the Expositor

They always say the third time is the charm, and after dropping two heart-wrenching games to Montpelier in the regular season, Fayette left no doubt Tuesday as the Eagles jumped out to a big first half lead and rolled past the Locomotives, 54-36, to advance to Friday night’s title game in a Division IV boys basketball sectional.

“I’ve been doing this a long time and usually the team that wins the third time is the team that lost twice,” Eagle coach Todd Mitchell said after. “In our league, the BBC, we play everyone twice during the regular season so we are really familiar with each other and the kids have been playing against each other since maybe third or fourth grade. It just came down to execution at both ends of the floor and we did that and got a good ‘W’ tonight.”

The Eagles bounced out to an early 7-0 lead as sophomore Kaden Frenn powered inside for a hoop and hit a top of the key triple around Elijah Lerma’s driving bank.

Tanner Wagner’s long range howitzer from the left side was countered by a pair of Thomas Jay triples that kept the Locos close at 10-7, but Lerma and Frenn each got to the rim in the closing minutes of the first to extend the Eagle lead to 14-9.

That lead ballooned to 12 halfway through the second as Lerma knocked in a foul line jumper and a triple, Wagner drove for a score and Skylar Lester went 2-2 from the foul stripe to more than double the Locos at 23-11 with 4:30 left.

Garrett Walz’ triple got Montpelier within single digits but again it was Frenn, once from the foul line with a jumper then with a spin to the rim and bank, before Lerma finished the half with a left-to-right jump stop layin for a 29-16 lead.

The Eagles sizzled from the floor in the first two quarters, shooting 60 percent compared to just 25 percent for Montpelier, and outrebounded the Locos 14-7.

“Kaden Frenn did a really good job getting to the basket,” said Mitchell. “He used his size and played with a lot of confidence in the first half and everyone else just kind of fed off that.

“A lot of times this year we have been settling for the early 3-pointer (in our offense) and today talking about offensive efficiency by getting the ball inside, you are going to shoot a lot more higher percentage from five feet instead of 20 feet.

“I thought we had limited mistakes on the defensive end and we rebounded quite well too.”

Phillip Whiteside’s spin from the right and Eli Eberly’s corner triple pushed the Eagle advantage to 34-18 in the first three minutes of the third.

Montpelier closed to 37-25 at the quarter break thanks to a pair of Tyler Yarhous buckets and two more by Blake Altafer, but Whiteside again scored inside and fed Frenn for a bucket to start the fourth, then Lerma took over from there.

Eberly found the junior guard for one score, then Lerma hit a bank shot and four more free throws to blow the game open — including the last two that gave Fayette their biggest lead at 18 with 30 ticks left.

“The second half we handled the ball pretty good against their pressure,” explained Mitchell as the Eagles were only guilty of eight turnovers. “It was good enough to win and a good way to move on in the tournament.”

Lerma’s 20 points and Frenn’s 18 paced the Eagles who shot an even 50 percent from the field. Yarhous’ 12 led the Locomotives.

Fayette now plays the winner of the Ayersville-Emmanuel Christian contest Friday night for a berth in the D-IV, Defiance District.

By Joe Blystone

For the Expositor

Reach Joe Blystone at fcesports@aimmediamidwest.com.

Reach Joe Blystone at fcesports@aimmediamidwest.com.