By Brad Morris
Tanner Holbert credited a sizzling start from the field in the second half on Friday to the effort that Logan Elm turned in on the other end of the court.
“We knew that we needed to do a better job of boxing out,” the Logan Elm junior guard said. “We gave up some offensive rebounds and putbacks that helped give Hillsboro momentum in the first half, so we knew that we had to play tougher on defense, contest everything and be more physical with them.
“That got us going, gave us some energy and we carried it over on offense.”
From there, crisp ball movement allowed the Braves to make 13 of their first 16 shots (81.3 percent) in the second half and hand visiting Hillsboro a 54-46 loss in a Division II Southeast District sectional final.
The fourth-seeded Braves (15-6) return to the district round of the tournament for a third consecutive year and are slated to travel to Southeastern a week from today to take on No. 12 seeded Jackson (10-11), a 37-32 winner last night over fifth-seeded Fairfield Union, in a district semifinal. Tip-off is slated for 3:30 p.m.
Logan Elm was an efficient 18 of 34 (52.9 percent) from the field against Hillsboro, led by Holbert hitting 9 of his 16 (56.3 percent) shots and scoring a game-high 30 points.
Long-time coach Doug Stiverson credited Holbert’s work ethic with going from the sixth man on last season’s Mid-State League Buckeye Division championship team to one of the more prolific scorers in south central Ohio this season.
“Tanner’s really improved on being able to come off of screens and catch and shoot the basketball,” he said. “Last year, he was more of a stand and shoot player taking the pass from one of our other players when they drew the defense.
“This season, it’s no secret that Tanner’s one of our go-to-guys, so we’ve worked to get him the ball in different spots, and he’s worked extremely hard to add to his game.”
With the Braves holding an 18-17 lead coming out of halftime, Holbert knocked down four-straight shots that allowed Logan Elm to take a 27-19 lead.
Holbert finished the quarter 6 of 6 from the field for 16 points and sent the Braves into the fourth quarter with a 37-30 advantage.
“It started off in the paint, posting up and scoring some around the basket,” Holbert said. “Then my teammates did a nice job of screening for me, and I came off of those and knocked down a couple of threes and a couple of jumpers.
“I was knocking down shots, but the reason why we were having success was the all-around effort that everyone was giving to get us going in the second half.”
Logan Elm opened the final quarter on an 11-2 run. Braylen Baker scored six points during the surge that also included a layup from Konnor Starkey and a triple off the shooting hand of Garret Summers to stake the Braves to a 48-32 advantage with 4:31 remaining.
“Hillsboro started to pick us up in the full-court and our guys did a good job at first of breaking the pressure and getting some easy looks,” Stiverson said. “When you are on a run, it builds confidence in everyone and we were able to get some nice baskets by Konnor, by Garret and by Gavin Griffey there.
“Obviously, Tanner and Braylen are our top two scorers, but we’ve played our best basketball this season when we can get Konnor and our other guys involved some. It makes us more difficult to defend.”
It appeared the Braves were heading to an easy win, but the Indians had one last run in them and countered with 14 of the next 16 points in the game.
The Braves missed two one-and-one opportunities during the run and also had a turnover. A putback by Bryce Parsons off of one of seven offensive rebounds for the Indians during the quarter cut the Braves’ lead to 50-46 with 50 seconds remaining.
“We got a little careless with the lead maybe thinking the game was over before it was,” Stiverson said. “We made some passes there that we probably shouldn’t have made. We have to realize the score, where the clock is and be patient.
“I felt like we had been more physical defensively, rebounding on drives and staying connected when Hillsboro picked up the dribble, but they stepped up and grabbed some offensive rebounds and hit some big shots to get back in the game.”
Holbert stopped the run with four-straight free throws and Baker came up with a pair of key rebounds to end Hillsboro possessions, allowing the Braves to advance.
“Tanner stepped up and hit some clutch free throws to allow us to breathe a little bit and then we were able to grab some rebounds and finish it off,” Stiverson said.
Baker led the Braves with nine rebounds and Holbert followed with seven. Baker also contributed 17 points, including banking in a half-court shot to beat the first quarter buzzer that he launched from the left of the scorer’s table.
Hillsboro controlled 30 rebounds, 12 offensive, to 23 for Logan Elm.
Hunter Price had 16 points and Ethan Perry chipped in 15 for the Indians (11-12).
After winning a district championship in 2020 and a league crown last season, the Braves have a brand new starting five this season but have still managed to win 15 games so far and have returned to the district round of the tournament.
“It’s really a credit to our guys and the hard work that they’ve put in,” Stiverson said. “They know that we have tradition here and have watched guys win championships and advance in the tournament before them and they want to continue that tradition of having success in the tournament.
“I’m really proud of the way our group has grown over the course of the season, how they’ve accepted their roles and have been stars in those roles. They don’t care who does the scoring or whatever, for these guys it’s about playing together, playing as a family, having success and winning.”
Division II Southeast District
No. 4 Logan Elm 54,
No. 13 Hillsboro 46
HILLSBORO — Ethan Perry 5-3-15, Quintin Captain 3-0-7, Gifford 1-0-2, Bryce Parsons 3-0-6, Hunter Price 5-4-16. Three-point goals — Price (2), Perry (2) and Captain. Total — 17-59 7-7 46
LOGAN ELM — Gavin Griffey 1-0-2, Konnor Starkey 1-0-2, Braylen Baker 6-4-17, Garret Summers 1-0-3, Tanner Holbert 9-9=30. Three-point goals — Holbert (3), Summers and Baker. Total — 18-34 13-19 54.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Hillsboro 14 3 13 16 46
Logan Elm 14 4 19 17 54