Fast start, supporting cast propels Shawnee to second straight WOAC title


NEW MADISON — In a close game, a strong start is crucial.

However, having players who can step up and make big plays down the stretch is equally important.

Preble Shawnee’s boys’ basketball team got both on Friday, Feb.16, when it traveled to Tri-Village in hopes of winning its second straight league title.

In a battle of state-ranked teams and the remaining two unbeaten teams in the Western Ohio Athletic Conference, the Arrows raced out to double-digit first-quarter lead then got key contributions from a few unsung heroes late to knock off the host Patriots, 49-35, to win their second straight league title in front of an estimated crowd of nearly 1,700.

Preble Shawnee coach Jake Turner noted his team’s foul trouble and the need to weather that storm and emphasized the importance of team execution and player roles, particularly in terms of making shots, playing defense, and managing foul trouble.

“It’s a great feeling to win the league. I thought it was a good game and we battled all night. We had the lead early on and we kept it,” Turner said. “I’m just proud of my guys for the way they executed tonight. Some unknown guys, guys who don’t get a lot of love made some plays tonight and that’s what great teams do in big time games.”

Senior Mason Shrout led the first quarter surge, scoring 8 of his 14 points on the night as the Arrows built a 17-4 lead six minutes in and led 20-9 when the quarter ended.

“We were preaching we had to get out to a good start,” Turner said. “We didn’t want them to get up, we just didn’t like that if that would happen in that situation. They’re very good with a lead. Very, very good with a lead and at home.”

The second quarter was played at a slower pace. The Patriots began the quarter on a 7-0 run to get within 20-16 with 4:42 left. Shawnee still held a 25-20 lead at the break.

Both teams were led by their go-to-players; Shrout for Shawnee and Trey Sagester for Tri-Village. Sagester scored nine of his 13 points in the first half.

The second half, mainly the fourth quarter, proved to be about whose supporting cast was going to shine.

After Shrout scored the Arrows’ first four points of the second half he didn’t score the remainder of the game.

Sagester scored the opening basket of third and the final of the quarter for his last points of the night.

The Arrows’ supporting cast of Brody Morton (nine points, four assists), Knox Mills (points) and Case Roell stepped into the limelight.

“B-Mort had another big night,” Turner said. “He’s now getting that confidence each and every game. This is his first time playing varsity, obviously varsity football has helped him. But first year varsity (basketball). He did a lot of great things tonight. A lot of great things this year. And he was another guy that stepped up and made big plays down the stretch for us.”

With Shawnee ahead 34-29 to begin the fourth quarter, Mills, a freshman, connected on his first three-pointer of the game less than a minute in for a 37-29 lead.

After a Patriot basket made it 37-31, Morton drained a corner three-pointer in front of the Arrows’ student section to push the lead to 40-31.

Another T-V basket made it 40-33, but Mills answered with the Arrows’ third straight three-pointer and his second of the quarter to give Shawnee a double-digit lead, 43-33 with 4:45 to play.

Tri-Village scored with 4:31 left to make it a 43-35 game. It proved to be the Patriots’ last points of the game.

Roell, a senior, made two free throws then senior Logan Hawley (eight points, nine rebounds) added a free throw and basket to push the lead to 48-35 with just over two minutes left and the Shawnee faithful started to sense they were on the way to another title.

“You look at the freshman (Mills), first game of his career (he made) five big ones and (made) two big ones tonight. That’s who he is. He’s a big game guy. Case Roell making some big free throws, played a lot of good minutes,” Turner said. “Those guys came in they’ve been up and down, maybe you want to say this year. Some games they get more minutes than others and never complain. They’ve never made excuses. They’ve worked their butt off for moments like this tonight. And that says a lot about who they are character wise. We got great kids here, man. And those two are top of the line right there.”

Shawnee battled foul trouble in the second half as starters Isaac Blankenship and Brayden Robinette (nine points) each played most of the half with three and four fouls.

“Put us in a tough situation and that’s why I’m just so proud of Knox and Case just stepping up,” Turner said. “I thought Case did a great job on Trey. I thought Knox did a great job as well. They made some big plays on both ends of the court.”

Turner said despite the foul trouble his team played well on defense.

“I thought our guys on Trey did a great job on him all night, made him work. On (Tanner) Printz and (Braden) Keating as well. They scored but we made them work for it,” Turner said. “We didn’t give up a whole lot of easy (shots), made them work and that was kind of the game plan coming in; make those guys take tough shots and they’re really good man. Those three guys are really good. But our guys just battled, fought and I’m just so freaking proud of them.”

Printz finished with 12 points and Keating added eight.

The Arrows held Tri-Village 32 points below their season average.

“I’ve kind of been a little frustrated because our defense has been up and down at times. But tonight, I just thought all five guys were locked in and we made little changes here and there and they did them and they executed,” Turner said. “They went out and did exactly what they were supposed to do. But they made plays down the stretch.”

Shawnee (19-3, 11-0 WOAC) will begin sectional tournament play on Thursday, Feb. 22, against either Stivers or Northeastern. The game will be played at Northmont High School and will tip-off at at 7:30 p.m.

“They haven’t been handed anything. We’ve worked for what we’ve got, and we deserve this,” Turner said.

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on X @emowenjr.

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