DAYTON — National Trail’s first appearance in a district final in more than two decades ended with a 51-31 loss to Cincinnati Purcell Marian.
The Cavaliers, the No.1 team in the Cincinnati sectional and No. 5 ranked team in the state, applied pressure from start to finish on the Blazers, who finished the season 19-6 with the loss in a Division III boys district final at U.D. Arena on Sunday, March 10.
The district final appearance was just the second in school history for National Trail, who also advanced this far in the mid-1990’s.
“They’re so good,” National Trail Coach Mike Harrison said of the the Cavaliers, who improved to 22-4 with the win. “People may not, until your down on the floor, realize their length and their quickness and it doesn’t stop not matter who they put in.”
The Blazers kept the game close through the first quarter shooting 50 percent from the field and trailing only 12-11 after the opening frame.
A basket by Zach Woodall gave Trail a 4-2 lead with 5:17 to play. It proved to the last lead of the game for the Blazers.
Purcell Marian went on a 6-0 run to take an 8-4 lead.
The second quarter proved costly for Trail. They went more than five minutes without a basket as the Cavaliers extended their lead t0 21-11.
A three-pointer by senior Evynn Short with 2:39 ended the scoring drought for Trail, who didn’t score again in the quarter and trailed 26-14 at the half.
Another long dry spell in the third, mainly due to Purcell Marian’s defense, made the remainder of the contest an uphill battle.
The Cavaliers took advantage turning a 31-22 game with 5:02 left into a 37-22 lead by the end of the quarter.
The Blazers saw the deficit grow to as many as 22 in the fourth quarter.
Purcell Marian was led by Alex Dotson’s 17 points. Javonta Lyons (11) and Bryan Warah (10) also scored in double figures.
For the game, Trail committed 12 turnovers and shot 40 percent, making just 12-of-32 shots, most of which were contested.
“We only turned it over 12 times. I would have taken that going (into the game),” Harrison said. “But they are so good defensively. They’re not just a bunch of athletes running around. They’re a bunch of athletes playing solid defense. They step in and take charges. They get in gaps and they rotate. We just had a hard time finding any good looks.”
The Cavaliers scored 19 points of Trail turnovers and outscored the Blazers 32-18 in the paint.
“Defensively, we held up for a while. But eventually they were able to get to the basket,” Harrison said. “They didn’t annihilate us on the boards, but they got just enough offensive boards to get those second and third chances. Our plan was to try and make them beat us from the outside. Easier said than done, sometimes.”
Sophomore Cameron Harrison, the Blazers leading scorer on the season, finished with eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. All of his points were scored in the second half. He also had five assists.
Short finished with six. Woodall, a junior, added five points and led the team with seven rebounds.
“I’m proud of the guys. I’m not disappointed in how we played. I’m disappointed it’s over,” Mike Harrison said.
To reach the district final, Trail, the No. 6 seed in the Dayton sectional, had to defeat two teams that beat them earlier in the season. They knocked off an Arcanum team, in the sectional final, that won 14 games and a Middletown Madison squad that won 20 games in the district semifinal.
“It’s not easy to get here,” Mike Harrison said. “I’m really proud of the kids for getting here. We got matched up with just a very, very good team that we weren’t able to deal with tonight.”
Trail will lose five seniors to graduation — Short, Travis Hunt, Adam Eyler, Hunter Michael and Josh Bishop.
“These seniors when they were freshmen won five games and some of them were playing for us (at the varsity level) and it’s gotten better and better every year,” Mike Harrison said. “They should be real proud of themselves.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH