By Brad Morris
When a three-pointer off the shooting hand of Isaac Ward rimmed out during the last minute of a Division II Southeast District semifinal on Thursday, it summed up the struggle Logan Elm had from bonus range.
The Braves missed all 16 three-pointers they attempted and made just 12 of 36 (33.3 percent) shots in a 51-36 loss to the visiting Unioto Shermans.
“Unioto did a great job getting up into us defensively and their length caused us a lot of problems,” Logan Elm coach Doug Stiverson said. “They contested almost every shot that we put up.
“I felt like we were able to get some decent looks early, but we couldn’t get them to fall and things kinda snowballed from there.”
Unioto, meanwhile, was a solid 19 of 39 (48.7 percent) from the field, and controlled 27 rebounds to 19 for Logan Elm, who uncharacteristically turned the ball over 12 times.
De’Sean Branson scored 16 points for the Shermans and Isaac Little added 14.
Seventh-seeded Unioto (16-5) entered the second half with a 21-13 lead, but Logan Elm tried to rally with an 8-2 run to open the period. Second-seeded Logan Elm (16-2) forced a pair of turnovers during the run, which was highlighted by a pair of baskets from Gabe Chalfin.
“Our guys came out with a lot of energy and we turned up the defense to get a few turnovers, get out in transition and get some easy shots,” Stiverson said. “We just couldn’t maintain that and Unioto gets a lot of credit for that with how well they played defensively.”
The Shermans responded with a 10-2 run to close the quarter, with Branson and Evan Park each contributing a pair of baskets. Brandon charged up the Shermans during the run with a steal and dunk.
Unioto took a 33-23 lead into the fourth quarter and led by no fewer than 10 points.
Isaac Ward paced the Braves with 16 points and Chalfin chipped in 12.
Logan Elm says goodbye to a senior class – Chalfin, Ward, Jason Sailor, Jeremy Wietelmann, Trace Smith, Xavier Kellough and David Harden – that produced a district championship last season and a Mid-State League Buckeye Division title this year.
Four of those seniors – Ward, Sailor, Wietelmann and Chalfin – played varsity as freshmen and had to cut their teeth during a 9-14 season.
“We had to throw those guys into the fire as freshmen and, with not a lot of experience in front of them, they had to learn on their own about what it took to play at the varsity level,” Stiverson said. “They found out the toughness you have to play with, how hard you have to play for all four quarters and then they had to carry a big part of the load scoring, rebounding and also defending.”
The Braves had a winning campaign the following year, but broke through last year when they won a district championship as a seventh-seed.
“Those guys had to learn to win at the varsity level and it’s paid off the last two seasons,” Stiverson said. “The work these guys put in during the offseason made the difference and is something people don’t see. They hit the weight room, they logged a lot of time in the gym and that hard work paid off with winning a district championship last year and going 13-1 this season in the league to win the MSL-Buckeye title. Our guys also had to learn to play with a target on their back this season after winning district.”
The warmup shirts the Braves donned this season had the words ToughnEss, UnseLfish and FaMily to spell out Elm in Logan Elm. Stiverson said it was a motto the team lived by and will be the legacy that the senior class leaves behind.
“The toughness, effort, perseverance and faith that our guys have and played with was something special. This was more than a team, it was a family. These guys truly loved each other and would do anything for each other,” he said. “That goes back to the seniors being accepting of everyone and being leaders for those younger kids in our program.
“You play the game to win and this loss hurts, but the reason why it really hurts is not being around these guys on a daily basis like you are during the season. The kids make memories during practice, working out on their own together, team meals and before, during and after games, and those are things we also enjoy as coaches with being around them.”
Stiverson will look for sophomores Tanner Holbert and Braylen Baker to carry on the legacy that they inherit from the graduating seniors.
“It was great experience for both Tanner and Braylen to be part of a championship team and watch how hard those seniors worked and how they led the team,” Stiverson said. “Our seniors developed that leadership and family atmosphere and we’ll want Tanner and Braylen to take that and build on it for our younger guys who will be coming up from JV.”
Logan Elm 36
UNIOTO — Cameron DeBord 2-0-5, DeSean Branson 7-2-16, Isaac Little 2-10-14, Tayvion Galloway 4-0-8, Evan Park 2-0-4, Carter Marko 2-0-4. Three-point goals — Cameron DeBord. Total — 19-39 12-19 51.
LOGAN ELM — Isaac Ward 4-8-16, Braylen Baker 2-0-4, Jason Sailor 1-2-4, Gabe Chalfin 5-2-12. Total — 12-36 12-15 36.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Unioto 12 12 17 18 51
Logan Elm 5 8 10 13 36
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