Short-handed Arrows rally to knock off Tri-Village in regional semifinals; advance to regional final for 2nd straight year


KETTERING — For Preble Shawnee’s boys basketball team, it’s all about staying together as a team and focusing on its goal of reaching the state final four for the first time in school history.

That was put to the test Wednesday (March 13) in the Division III, Region 8 semifinals against No. 1 seed Tri-Village at Trent Arena.

The Arrows overcame the loss of junior Isaac Blankenship, who was out with an injury, to topple their Western Ohio Athletic Conference rival 57-48 and advance to Saturday’s regional final for the second straight season.

The No. 3 seeded Arrows (23-3) will meet No. 11 Versailles (15-11), who dominated Cin. Mariemont 68-43 in the second semifinal, Saturday, March 16, at 7 p.m.

“That’s just a great team effort, especially with the adversity. With the situation that we were in with losing Isaac I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’m going to be honest,” Shawnee coach Jake Turner said. “Isaac’s been a guy who started like 47 games in three years. We’re not used to not having him on the court.”

Turner said Blankenship will be missed.

“Just a very unfortunate situation. I feel for the kid because he’s worked his butt off to get to this opportunity and played really well. He was just now starting to get his groove back from earlier in the year on offense as well,” Turner said. “For it to be a freak injury, how it happened, you know, I feel for the kid, but you know, he showed up every day to practice. He’s a great teammate. That’s what we’ve got — we’ve got great kids here. It’s not about I, I, I. It’s about we, we, we.”

Turner said he knew getting back to the regional final was going to be a challenge.

“To go back-to-back regional finals is unbelievable. We’ve talked about that a little bit in the locker room,” Turner said. “We said last year this was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It’s going to be a lot tougher to get back there and it was. But these guys just continued to stay together, losing a teammate. The morale the first couple of days was tough, but this is who these kids are. They stay together. It’s a close community.”

On the day he was named a finalist for Mr. Basketball, Mason Shrout didn’t disappoint, despite getting off to a slow start.

The senior led the Arrows with 19 points (11 in the second half,) seven rebounds and five assists.

Turner and Shrout each said the honor of being a finalist is something to be cherished, but the goal is to keep winning and advancing.

“Our mind(set) is we want to win one more and get to the final four, then anything can happen. That’s kind of where our mentality is right now and what we’re thinking,” Turner said. “Awards are great, right, but right now we’re focused on team and finding a way to get to the first final four ever.”

Just like the first meeting with the Patriots, Shawnee got key contributions from everyone who played.

Senior Case Roell was inserted into the starting lineup and drew the assignment of guarding Trey Sagester.

Sagester, Tri-Village’s leading scorer, averages more than 21 points per game and Roell and company held him to 12 on 4-of-11 shooting.

“I don’t want to leave Case Roell out tonight. He did an unbelievable job on Trey. Trey’s an unbelievable player, he’s a great player,” Turner said. “Case, that was his assignment tonight. Obviously, we were one guy short tonight who’s a huge factor for us, a big-time player, who did a great job on him last time — but for Case to step up and do the job he did tonight, it’s about great teams, the next man mentality — guys step up. Play for your brother, play for your family and that’s what he did tonight. He’s a special kid that had a special moment tonight with the way he took him out of the game, made it tough for him all night.”

Freshman Knox Mills delivered the knockout punch. He scored all seven of his points in the final 1:20 of the game, including going 5-of-6 from the foul line to secure the win.

As a team, Shawnee made 18-of-20 free throws.

“That’s the difference in tight games, too. The freshman stepping up making big time free throws in a big-time stage. He made some big plays. He didn’t play a whole lot,” Turner said. “I believe in him. I trust him. He’s made big shots, made big plays. Every time we’ve been in a big game he’s made some big plays and big shots. We call him Big Shot Knox.”

Sophomore Brody Morton scored 11, including making two fourth-quarter three-pointers, and grabbed three rebounds.

Senior Logan Hawley, who only took six shots, tallied 12 points, and grabbed six rebounds.

Junior Brayden Robinette added eight points while running the offense from his point guard position.

Tri-Village broke open an 11-11 game with a 7-0 run to begin the second quarter to take an 18-11 lead. The Patriots extended their lead to 25-13 with 32 seconds left in the first half.

That’s when momentum began to shift in the Arrows’ favor.

A Morton three with 20 seconds left made it a 25-16 game. Then with six seconds left in the half the Arrows forced a Patriot turnover, which T-V coach Josh Sagester protested because he felt his player was fouled, and got called for a technical foul.

Shrout made both free throws and Robinette buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Arrows within 25-21.

The Patriots opened the second half with a four-point play by Trey Sagester less than 30 seconds into the quarter go up 29-21.

“They got the lead, and they brought us out and they kind of held it a little bit. And I didn’t want to sit there and just let them hold it for a couple of minutes,” Turner said. “We tried to come out-guard them and we didn’t do a good job with that in the first half. So that’s kind of what the adjustments were in the second half — let’s get into more ‘try to speed them up.’”

From there Shawnee began to chip away.

“We made some adjustments. We wanted to kind of get into them more, speed them up,” Turner said. “We felt like we were getting into them towards the end there of the first half and it caused them issues. We wanted to get into them a little bit more and speed them up and see if they could handle our pressure.”

The Arrows eventually tied the game at 31 with 4:38 left in the quarter and took their first lead since midway through the first quarter at 34-32 on a three-pointer by Shrout with 1:12 left in the third.

A 7-2 run to open the fourth gave the Arrows a 41-35 lead with 4:50 left. Tri-Village answered with a free throw and a 3-pointer.

Then Shrout made what may have been the most pivotal play of the game.

Shrout leaned into a Patriot defender and drew a foul while making a 3-pointer. He capped the four-point play with a free throw to push his team’s lead to 44-39 with 2:27 left in the game.

“Huge play. He’s a gamer. He’s a winner. Big time player. Big time players make big time plays in big time moments and that’s what he does,” Turner said.

Turner said once his team was able to regain the lead, they were able to dictate tempo.

“Once we got the lead, we were able to go back to what our game plan kind of was,” he said. “And when they get a lead they’re usually really, really good. They hold the ball. They do a good job. They are a good team. They’re well coached. Josh does a great job.”

Tri-Village never got closer than five the rest of way as Mills scored seven of the Arrows’ final 10 points.

Turner said his team struggled in the first half with the Patriots’ Box and One defense on Shrout.

“We struggled with it a little bit in the first half, made some adjustments. I thought we got some great looks in the first half,” Turner said. “I’m going to be honest, we just missed a lot of easy ones around the rim, couple wide open layups. Some of our guys who have been shooting really well missed some shots, and they made some shots in second half. That’s kind of the difference. I think we shot 10 to 14 in the second half.”

Shawnee finished the game 16-of-35 (45.7 percent) from the field, which included going 5-for-5 in the fourth quarter and 10-of-14 in the second half.

“I mean, just for our guys, you know, kind of struggling that first half and staying together at halftime and then just grinding it out and finding a way to win the second half. It’s just a great feeling,” Turner said. “These guys are just awesome. They don’t want this to end. They want to keep going. They want this to end at UD arena. Obviously, a state championship is the goal, but they want to get there next week.”

Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 9347-683-4061 and follow on X @emowenjr.

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