STRUTHERS -The Indians couldn't handle the pressure.
Youngstown Christian used a relentless full-court press which caused Southern Local all kinds of problems on Friday in a Division IV sectional contest at Struthers Fieldhouse. In the end, the fourth-seeded Indians couldn't find an answer in a 53-43 loss to the eighth-seeded Eagles.
"You don't see that kind of athleticism and quickness in our league," Southern Local coach George Whittaker said. "They're the most talented team up here as far as athleticism goes."
The Indians had the most trouble with the Eagles' pressure in the opening of each half.
Youngstown Christian scored the first eight points of the game and did much the same in the third quarter as they opened the second half on an 18-3 run.
"We stressed that coming out of the gate, we couldn't turn the ball over," Whittaker said. "With the way they play, you can't thrown the ball away. We tried to prepare for that kind of pressure, but you can't duplicate that in practice."
Youngstown Christian let their defense turn into offense as Daylen Williams had all the right moves for the Eagles en route to his game-high 25 points.
"We have evolved as a team," Youngstown Christian coach Dolph Carroll said. "I took them a while to figure it out. I didn't think we played a great first half, but our level of intensity really picked up as we went along.
"We try to be smart with our pressure and be organized with it. They've learned how to work together."
The loss ends Southern Local's season at 16-7, one win short of the school record.
Youngstown Christian improves to 13-8 and will now take on No. 2 seed Mogadore in the district semifinals at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Despite an 8-0 Eagles' run to start the contest, the Indians appeared to be up to the challenge. Southern Local rallied to take its first lead as the first quarter came to a close.
The remainder of the first half saw the lead change hands several times with neither team opening a comfortable margin. The Eagles scored the last bucket of the first half to take a 26-25 lead into the break.
The third quarter spelled trouble for Southern Local.
Youngstown Christian opened a 10-point advantage midway through the frame and never looked back.
The Eagles largest lead, 51-34, came in a fourth quarter where the Indians seemed to be tiring under the pressure. Southern Local used its starting five for the majority of the game, while Youngstown Christian ran a full rotation of 10 players throughout.
"They kind of wore us down a bit," Whittaker said. "We didn't have the experience off the bench to handle their pressure. Our guys played hard and I don't think they were intimidated, but we just missed too many easy shots."
Luke Griffith led Southern Local with 15 points. Dylan Ketchum was the only other Indian to reach double digits with 10 points, while Kyler Woodward and J.J. Napierkowksi each netted eight points.
The game was the final one for Griffith, Ketchum, Woodward and Napierkowski, the Indians' four seniors.
"They're a good group," Whittaker said. "Those seniors are probably the winningest class to come through Southern. I was hoping we could've had a better draw and got to play a couple more games, but I'm proud of the work they put in."
Griffith, who connected on two three-pointers in the game, became the school's single season record holder with 62. Earlier this season, he set a school record with nine three-pointers in a game.
Whittaker said he thought Youngstown Christian had to be one of the best No. 8 seeds in the state.
"I voted for them to get a better seed than eight," he said. "The second half of the season, they played some really good basketball. But, the way it worked out, that's where they were slotted and we ended up having to play them in our first game."
Carroll, who was called for a technical foul for complaining to the officials in the fourth quarter, said he was excited for the opportunity to play Mogadore in the next round.
"We're going to enjoy this win (Friday), but come Saturday it's time to move on," he said. "They're a very good team and we're going to have our hands full, that's for sure. But, I think our guys will come out and be ready for the challenge."
Y. CHRISTIAN: 11-15-18-9-53
YOUNGSTOWN CHRISTIAN SCORING: Jayquan Yanno 2-2-6, Paris Bennett 0-0-0, Darien Townsend 5-0-11, Seth McMillan 0-0-0, Daylen Williams 9-7-25, Tyler Dubose 1-0-2, Nick Gonda 2-0-4, Kaewon Green 1-0-2, Robert Thompson 1-0-3, Ryan Houston 0-0-0. TOTALS: 21, 9-16: 53.
SOUTHERN LOCAL SCORING: M.J. Williams 0-2-2, J.J. Napierkowski 4-0-8, Dylan Ketchum 4-0-10, Jared Shilot 0-0-0, Troy Holden 0-0-0, Luke Griffith 5-3-15, Kyler Woodward 4-0-8. TOTALS: 17, 5-10: 43.
Three-pointers: Youngstown Christian 2 (Townsend, Thompson), Southern Local 4 (Ketchum 2, Griffith 2)