NAPOLEON — Led by Cayden Jacoby’s game-high 26 points Pettisville built a first quarter lead, then when Fayette inched closer in the fourth quarter, the Blackbirds salted it away at the free throw line for a 46-35 win in a Division IV boys basketball sectional semifinal Wednesday at Napoleon High School.
Jacoby was a problem all night for the Eagles, whether it was scoring from numerous places on the court in the first half or going 8 for 10 at the foul line in the second.
“We need to reverse the basketball. It’s no secret who needs to touch the basketball, that’s number 34 (Jacoby). The ball needs to go through him. It’s just like teams that have a great point guard out there, we have a great center so he needs to touch the basketball. He does a good job of distributing the basketball, making good decisions with it. And it was nice to see him step up and knock down a few jumpers at the beginning of the game,” said Blackbird coach Brian Leppelmeier after the game.
Jacoby hit 1 of 2 free throws and added a hook shot, then Sean Adkins’ basket in the paint put the Blackbirds up 12, 36-24, with under four minutes left in the game. However, the Eagles responded by getting hot from three-point range.
Triples by Demetrius Whiteside, Quinn Mitchell, and Xander Dunnett with a hoop by Elijah Lerma and two Jacoby free throw in between, got the Eagle deficit down to 38-35 with only 1:33 remaining.
While for a lot of the game Pettisville was able to keep Fayette in check, that stretch in the fourth quarter shows how difficult it can be going against the type of athletes the Eagles have.
“You talk to our guys, there aren’t a ton of secrets between the two of us and what we do,” said Leppelmeier on his team’s familiarity with Fayette. “We knew most of their (Fayette’s) actions and we told our guys, ‘once you take away that initial action, you can’t rest and relax because now they’re just gonna go off the script.’ Honestly, sometimes that’s a little more dangerous than their action — Elijah Lerma going off script or even Quinn getting in there and creating shots.”
The Birds answered Dunnett’s triple with Joey Ripke’s drive and score at the 1:13 mark, beginning what ended up being an 8-0 run to end the contest. Adkins knocked down two from the line, Zakkai Kaufmann and Jaret Beck each split a pair, and Jacoby knocked down two to complete the 11-point Blackbird win.
“We had to refocus there for a little bit,” admitted Leppelmeier. “I thought they made a little bit of a run. We had a few possessions where they took a shot and got several (second-chance) opportunities.
“In the last timeout, (we) really focused on getting our guards to get out and get a body on somebody, that way Cayden can go to the glass.
Pettisville held the edge on the boards, outrebounding Fayette 28-22.
“I think we had seven turnovers in the first half. We started off in some zone, we had some defensive breakdowns out of that. But I thought our man-to-man (defense) gave them a little bit of trouble. They were disciplined enough and had some really good possessions. We rebounded the ball pretty good the first two quarters, but in the fourth quarter they kind of started getting some offensive rebounds and stuff like that,” Fayette Coach Todd Mitchell on his thoughts on how the game played out.
“You got to give them credit. We just kind of ran out of gas down the stretch. I think we cut it to three there in the fourth, and then we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
However, two nights later Pettisville dropped a rubber match with Stryker in the sectional final, falling to the Panthers 54-50 in double overtime. They cap the 2021-22 season with a 12-11 record and 5-2 mark in Buckeye Border Conference play.
Against Fayette, the Birds outscored the Eagles in every quarter outside of the third in which they were even, 11-11.
In the first half, specifically the second quarter, Pettisville doubled up Fayette (18-9) following two Jacoby free throws with 4:50 left. The Blackbird center would score inside 1:33 later for an 11-point advantage.
Nevertheless, the Eagles did get a pair of buckets from Wyatt Mitchell in the final three minutes, making the halftime margin 20-13.
Fayette kept battling after halftime and multiple times got within three, but in the end, Pettisville had an answer for each Eagle run.
“We kind of spotted them there in the first quarter, so we made a run to get back in it,” stated Coach Mitchell. “Like I said, we got close and then they made another run — it’s a game of runs. They made the last run and we ran out of time there in the fourth quarter.”
Jacoby added 12 boards to go with his 26 points. Lerma paced the Eagles with 12 points.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.