By Brad Morris
While the offensive firepower that New Hope showed off on Friday was impressive in its Ohio Christian School Athletic Association state semifinal, senior guard Clayton Rhyne credited the swarming zone defense the Statesmen played for sparking a 59-16 win over Elyria’s First Baptist inside the Ohio Christian Maxwell Center.
“The best offensive games we’ve played this season always start on the other end of the floor with our defense. We feed off the energy we create by playing good defense and communicating as a team,” he said. “When we get out and pressure in our zone defense, it speeds up the game and the turnovers we create lead to transition basket going the other way.”
The Statesmen put 10 players into the scoring column, led by Rhyne scoring a game-high 19 points and adding eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. Andrew Swank and Lane Bruning followed with 12 points apiece, with Bruning also contributing five rebounds.
New Hope limited First Baptist to just 6 of 28 (25 shooting) and forced 23 turnovers.
“We developed more of a defensive identity over the last two seasons to have success, because we had to,” New Hope coach Shane Roese said. “Our guys are comfortable in our zone defense with Andrew Swank and Hunter Cavanaugh doing a nice job out-front with pressuring and anticipating the motion of our opponent’s offense.
“Overall, our guys do a nice job of anticipating, rotating and communicating. We give up a few baskets here and there out of our zone defense when teams find the gaps, but we like the tradeoff overall with speeding up the game and forcing turnovers to score in transition. The length and speed we’ve added this season that has made us much more dynamic on offense has also helped defensively and made us a tougher team to play.”
New Hope outrebounded First Baptist 37-21, including pulling down 18 of their 22 offensive rebounds during the first half.
Despite shooting just 7 of 21 (33.3 percent) in the first quarter, the Statesmen scored eight points off second-chance opportunities to jump out to a 15-2 lead.
Swank led the way with five points during the period and Bruning added a pair of baskets.
“Our last two weeks of practice have been sensational with how focus and determined our guys are,” Roese said. “I was very at ease walking into the gym tonight, not because of the opponent we were playing, but because of how locked in are guys are and how well they are playing together. Our senior leadership (Adam Rink, Andrew Swank, Ethan Cook, Clayton Rhyne and Jon Arni) is exceptional, and they set the tone for our team with the intensity they bring to practice every day,
“I felt like we were a little too amped up to be honest there in the first quarter, which led to a few more missed shots than we probably should have had, but our guys did a nice job of settling things down in the second quarter.”
The Statesmen shot 11 of 17 (64.7 percent) from the field during the second period to extend their advantage to 40-7 at halftime.
New Hope scored another 10 points off second-chance opportunities during the quarter.
Rhyne tallied 13 points during the quarter, Bruning followed with six points and Swank chipped in a pair of baskets.
“We did a nice job of hitting the glass and scoring a lot of points off of second-chances or in transition off the turnovers or stops we got on defense,” Rhyne said. “We also did a nice job of moving the basketball and getting good looks at the basket. We don’t have a selfish player on this team, and we feed off of the success that each other has, whether it is scoring a basket, making an assist or getting offensive rebounds to keep the ball on our end of the court.”
The Statesmen emptied their bench early in the third quarter and finished the night 27 of 58 (46.6 percent) from the field.
“We normally play seven deep, which leaves five-to-seven guys not getting a lot of minutes in the game,” Roese said. “Those guys work hard in practice, which is something we require, and it helps prepare our starters prepare for the games we play. It was nice to reward those guys with some playing time on this court in the second half and get several of them into the scoring column.”
Gavin Fisher scored six points and Drake Patton added five for the Sabres.
The Statesmen (18-7) will look to cap their season today at 5 p.m. with a win against Community Christian in the state championship game.
“This is what it’s all about,” Rhyne said. “We’ve been working hard and really focused on getting an opportunity to play for a ‘ship and now we want to come back in here and take it.”
Ohio Christian School Athletic Association
New Hope 59,
First Baptist 16
FIRST BAPTIST — Gavin Fisher 2-0-6, Drake Patton 2-0-5, Caleb Allbaugh 1-1-3, Sam Gravely 1-0-2. Three-point goals — Fisher (2) and Patton. Total — 6-28 1-2 16.
NEW HOPE — Hunter Cavanaugh 1-0-2, Adam Rink 1-0-2, Nathaniel Ames 2-0-4, Andrew Swank 5-0-12, Clayton Rhyne 8-2-19, Xander Rink 1-0-2, Gavin Ludens 1-0-2, Judson Pollock 1-0-2, Tony Sims 1-0-2, Lane Bruning 6-0-12. Three-point goals — Swank (2) and Rhyne. Total — 27-58 2-5 59.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
First Baptist 2 5 1 8 16
New Hope 15 25 9 10 59