Preble Shawnee’s historic season ends with loss in D-III state semifinals


DAYTON — Preble Shawnee never quit.

With the goal of finishing the season at UD Arena, the Arrows came up one game shy of playing for the ultimate prize in high school basketball.

Shawnee fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter to defending state champion Cleveland Heights Lutheran East, before eventually falling to the Falcons 63-44 Friday, March 22, at UD Arena, in the second of two Division III state semifinal games, in front of more the 5,100 fans.

“Obviously, they are really good. They’ve been here a lot. They’re familiar with this place, being in final four and winning state championships,” Shawnee coach Jake Turner said.

Lutheran East went on to capture its second straight state title with a 45-36 win over Canal Winchester Harvest Prep, who beat Preble Shawnee in last year’s regional final, on Sunday, March 24.

Shawnee and Lutheran East played nearly even over the game’s final 25 minutes.

“Obviously, the first quarter is going to be something we look back at. It was kind of the difference in the game. We played with them for the rest of the three quarters. I just thought we got out to a slow start. I think some of it was adjusting to (their) physicality and their speed. We haven’t seen a team like that in a long time. They got into us. We sped up on offense way too much, took some bad shots, missed some easy ones, gave up some easy ones.”

Shawnee went 0-for-7 from the field in the first quarter and committed five turnovers against the Falcons, who were making their seventh straight trip to state.

A pair of Mason Shrout free throws finally broke the ice for Shawnee with 1:16 left in the opening quarter.

“But honestly, the difference in the game was the first quarter because it kind of threw out our whole game plan we had,” Turner said. “We had to change up really quick, but I’m just proud of the guys for not quitting. They could of quit and got beat by 30 or 40 tonight. But that’s just not who these guys are. This is not who this team is, not what our program stands for. And I’m just proud of them for competing.”

The Arrows trailed 31-13 at the break against a team that won its first four tournament games by an average margin of 57 points per game.

After the Falcons pushed their lead to 37-22 with 4:10 left in the third, Shawnee closed to within 10 at 37-27 less than a minute later, which brought the Arrow faithful to their feet.

Trailing 40-29 with 1:47 left in the quarter, Shawnee couldn’t come up with a needed defensive stop or key basket.

The Falcons closed with a 5-0 run to take a 45-29 lead into the fourth quarter.

“We got it to maybe nine or 10 or 11 right there in the third or fourth and we felt like we had a little bit of a chance, and they drilled two shots in a row,” Turner said.

Lutheran East extended its lead to 20 twice in the final quarter.

Shrout, a Mr. Basketball finalist, finished with a team-high 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He said once his team settled down they were able to compete.

“We were getting to the half court, slowing things down a little bit, handling the pressure a little bit better,” he said. “We weren’t getting across half court and putting our head down and just dribbling as fast as we could. We kind of pulled it out a little bit, got into our sets. And I feel like when we get into our sets, and we slow it down we can compete with anybody, and we showed that the last three quarters. First quarter they got into us, sped us up. We turned it over too much, took some bad shots. But we didn’t give up.”

Shrout said he’s proud to be part of the Preble Shawnee community and is thankful for his teammates.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere without these guys. Obviously, it takes an army to be able to come in and get to the Final Four. Teams don’t just wake up and walk into the Final Four,” he said. “These guys, my teammates, they put so much time, these coaches put in so much time with film, scout and it’s just a blessing growing up in my hometown and being able to get to the first final four. I can’t ask for a better team, better coaches, better community. Our community support was outstanding. It really took something like this to bring the county together. We had every business in the county supporting us, posting things, putting out signs. We had businesses and other counties putting out signs for us. I wouldn’t rather my senior year go any other way, other than a state championship, that would have been nice. Just these guys on this team, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to get here. And I couldn’t ask for a better, better surrounding core to be able to get here with.”

Sophomore Brody Morton turned in a solid showing. He scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

He knew someone other than Shrout was going to have to score for the Arrows to have a chance. Plus, he didn’t want to send the seniors out with a loss.

“I just kind of thought that I’d do it for my seniors. My dad told me before the game do it for the seniors and for Isaac, obviously,” he said. “If something’s not going right, just look over at Isaac or look over at the seniors and just play for them. So that’s what I did. The first quarter I just looked at Isaac (Blankenship) and Mason and then after the first quarter was over, I just kind of stepped it up and was playing for them.”

Blankenship was the Arrows second leading scorer and top defender before suffering an injury prior to the regional semifinals.

Shrout noted that’s what this team, which finished 24-4 and was the first Preble County team to reach state since 1957, was all about.

“That’s what I’m talking about (with) this team, this community. All week it was let’s play for each other,” he said. “Let’s play for Isaac. Obviously, he went down and for a sophomore to have that kind of mindset looking at his seniors and playing for them, playing for the hurt person, it just shows how tight we were, how close as a group we were, and I don’t think a day went by where any of us were dreading going to practice. We were excited to get in the gym with our boys, have another practice, have another opportunity to get better. That just shows you what kind of program coach Turner and coach Thomas, and coach Rob and coach Shanefelt are building.”

Turner said he’s most disappointed in not being able to coach this team again.

“I told them in the locker room, talking in there for a little while, I told them I’m a little upset with loss, but that’s not the main reason I’m upset. The main reason I’m upset is this is the last time that I’m going to get to coach this team, and this team is special, their special,” Turner said. “It hasn’t been easy this year. Obviously, a lot of adversity. Went through a bad slump for about a month but these guys stayed in the gym after, they put the extra work in. They kept telling me coach when we fine, we’ll be fine we’re going to figure this out. And it’s just a great group. It’s a great, special group, that I love to death. It’s been a lot of fun, the community support. This week, it’s just been amazing.”

Shawnee will lose Shrout, who finished his career tied for 20th all-time in scoring in OHSAA history, along with fellow senior Logan Hawley and Case Roell.

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

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