By Brad Morris
Sometimes when the primary plan isn’t working, it’s time to go to Plan B.
In the case of Clayton Rhyne and his New Hope teammates on Saturday, Plan B was hitting the accelerator and driving to the basket.
“This was probably one of our worst shooting games of the season, especially during the first three quarters,” Rhyne said. “We were terrible from three; we couldn’t hit our jumpers, so it was time to attack the basket and at least try to get to the free throw line or get some offensive rebounds and score off our second chances.”
The Statesmen scored the final 22 points of an Ohio Christian School Athletic Association state championship game, sparked by Rhyne tallying 16 of his game-high 34 points, to pull away for a 65-36 win over the Community Christian Warriors.
“It felt like we were beating our heads against a wall on offense, because we really struggled from the field and it didn’t seem like we were getting the number of offensive rebounds that we normally get,” New Hope coach Shane Roese said. “We talked going into the fourth quarter about screening the player that Community Christian had at the top of the key and get Clayton going downhill and driving to the basket to create some offense and then have Lane Bruning crash from the wing.”
Rhyne turned in a double-double effort with 11 rebounds and also chipped in four assists. Bruning accounted for 11 points, 12 rebounds and a pair of blocks, Hunter Cavanaugh scored nine points and Xander Rink added seven points and eight rebounds.
The Statesmen led by as many as 15 points during the second quarter but were unable to put away the Warriors until their massive knockout blow to end the game. Community Christian trimmed its deficit down to 10 points at halftime and trailed by as few as six points during the third quarter.
A layup by Grant Doeringer with seven minutes remaining cut New Hope’s lead to 43-36.
“Community Christian was really aggressive on both offense and defense and they just kept battling to their credit,” Roese said. “They did a nice job of moving the basketball at times, keeping us off the boards and they decided to give us the three to shoot, which has normally been to our advantage this season, but we really struggled with our shot tonight from the perimeter.”
Rhyne scored the next 11 points of the contest, cutting through the Community Christian defense by penetrating from the top of the key and the wing to get to the basket and score.
“Clayton has shown time and time again this season how he can take over a game and he did that again tonight,” Roese said. “Community Christian was only down seven points early in the quarter and the longer you let an underdog hang around it seems like strange things can happen in a game and you can potentially find yourself in trouble.
“Clayton wanted us to go out on top by winning a state championship and he made sure that was going to happen.”
The Statesmen shot 10 of 20 during the fourth quarter and out-rebounded the Warriors 14-6.
Rhyne said the schedule that the Statesmen played this season, which included games against district champions Green and Patriot Prep, district runner-up Newark Catholic and Northmor and Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division champion Vinton County helped prepare the Statesmen for adversity.
“We didn’t take control of this game as fast as we felt like we probably should have, but we don’t worry during a game and we know that we are going to find a way more often than not to get the job done,” he said. “We’ve won a variety of ways during the season, with our defense, rebounding, transition offense and really shooting the ball well from three.”
After Doeringer’s layup early in the fourth quarter, the Warriors missed their final nine shots and also committed six turnovers.
“We decided to change out of zone and go with our man defense in the fourth quarter and I think the combination of that different look and Community Christian having to battle so hard in the first three quarters kinda wore them down there in the fourth and allowed us to take charge,” Roese said.
Doeringer finished with 14 points, and Josiah Harbaugh and Isaac Amos added six apiece for the Warriors (17-9).
New Hope finished the evening 23 of 60 (38.3 percent) from the field compared to Community Christian shooting 14 of 43 (32.6 percent). Community Christian had 26 turnovers to 12 for New Hope, which held a 39-30 advantage on the glass.
The Statesmen (19-7) accepted their state championship trophy and medals after the game and then cut down the net on the north end of Ohio Christian’s Maxwell Center to celebrate their successful season that was led by the senior class of Rhyne, Andrew Swank, Adam Rink, Ethan Cook and Jon Arni.
“A championship team obviously has quite a bit of talent, but it does beyond that with chemistry, being unselfish and having a family atmosphere, and that’s what has made this team so special to coach and be around,” Roese said. “It’s been a special journey for us and once we found our rotation and identity as a basketball season shortly after we turned the calendar to 2023. We took our game to another level and the last few weeks has been special to watch.
“Those elements that made us a successful basketball team this season will ultimately lead to greater success for these guys, to take the individual talent that God has blessed them with and be successful in life.”
Ohio Christian School Athletic Association
New Hope Christian 65,
Community Christian 36
NEW HOPE CHRISTIAN — Hunter Cavanaugh 3-0-9, Adam Rink 1-0-2, Clayton Rhyne 12-9-34, Xander Rink 3-1-7, Tyler Cook 1-0-2, Lane Bruning 3-5-11. Three-point goals — Cavanaugh (3) and Rhyne. Total — 23-60 15-21 65.
COMMUNITY CHRISTIAN — Grant Doeringer 6-2-14, Nate Miller 1-1-3, Josh Muth 2-0-4, Andrew McKee 0-3-3, Josiah Harbaugh 2-0-6, Isaac Amos 3-0-6. Three-point goals — Harbaugh (2). Total — 14-43 6-9 36.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
New Hope Christian 16 15 10 24 65
Community Christian 6 15 13 2 36