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Leetonia loses to league champs

LEETONIA — Southern Local celebrated the first boys basketball league title in school history Thursday. The Indians claimed it outright on Friday.

The Indians defeated Leetonia 58-42 on Friday to move to 14-5 overall and 12-2 in the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference, one game ahead of Valley Christian. Leetonia moves to 8-11 and 4-9 in the league.

“These kids had a singular focus on that league title,” Southern coach Gerard Grimm said. “We had some tough stretches where we were off or getting shut down or getting only a couple practices under our belt and then going to play some tough league opponents.

“The fact that we were able to stay together as a group and overcome a lot of those things is a testament to just how tough those kids are.”:

Southern jumped out to a 15-6 lead and used its strong defense to not allow the Bears back in the game at any point.

“It’s been a tough year but we knew coming into this year that was the goal and it’s good to see that it came true,” Southern senior Sam May said.

Southern has had to play an expedited schedule this season, playing three games in three days three different times and 10 games in the last 15 days.

May led the Indians with 16 points and seven rebounds. Brock Smalley had 13 points and five rebounds and Timmy West added 10 points and five rebounds.

For Leetonia, Jaedon Finley and Dylan Lennon each had 10 points. Leetonia reached eight wins for the first time in eight years.

“First, they haven’t reached their potential,” Leetonia coach Dan Dennis said. “Second, I am proud of them because we played six games with five guys and then we got Marco Ferry back. We have actually played 13 games with six kids and six games with five kids. We have had three stoppages because of the virus. We have had injuries and there are no excuses, but the kids have fought and they have grown and I am proud of them. I love them to pieces.

“Credit to Southern for winning the league,” Dennis added. “They deserve it.”

For Southern, it has been a hectic season. Ending it with a league title only feels fitting.

“For these guys, last year we had an opportunity to clinch a league title and you could see that excitement to try and get back in that position was something that was a constant focus for those kids,” Grimm said.

“For the school, there have been a lot of good basketball teams and a lot of good basketball players who have come through there. For this group of kids to be able to say they are the only ones to accomplish that is something special.”

The Indians are heading into the sectional tournament with a league title and confidence under their belt.

“It definitely gives us some confidence and we really hope we can make a deep run,” May said. “I can’t wait.”

For Leetonia, the Bears want to improve one thing specifically heading into tournament play.

“We can’t shoot,” Dennis said. “We hustle, we play defense. We try, but we couldn’t buy a basket. If we could shoot, we could be pretty good.

“I am proud of them,” Dennis added. “They never quit. They never missed a practice unless they were quarantined. Lucky to have them.”

For both teams, the focus now shifts to their respective sectional tournaments.

“Teamwork,” Dennis said about succeeding in the tournament. “Working as a team. We got a little selfish tonight but going into tournaments, we have to rebound and play defense and make some baskets.”

“We just played three games in three days and that was the third time we have done that this year,” Grimm said. “The kids will take tomorrow off and come in on Monday and clean some of the things up that we need to from tonight and put together a game plan to give these kids the best chance against Mathews.”

Game notes

• In jayvee action, Southern won 28-17 in a two-quarter game. For Southern, Gavin Tribelo had 11 points.

• No. 9 seed Southern will face No. 12 seed Mathews in a Division IV sectional opener Tuesday.

“They are a well coached team,” Grimm said. “They like to play up-tempo and they do a lot of good things that we are going to have to account for or we are going to have trouble.”

• No. 18 seed Leetonia will face No. 15 seed Lake Center Christian in the sectional semifinal on Tuesday.

“They have the same record as us, but they have lost to good teams,” Dennis said. “They are big and they are pretty good but if we play as a team, I like our chances.”

SOUTHERN: 15-15-12-16–58

LEETONIA: 6-11-15-10–42

SOUTHERN SCORING: Brock Smalley 5-3-13, Timmy West 4-1-10, Brad Sloan 2-0-4, Brady Ketchum 0-0-0, Colton Soukup 1-0-2, Markell Smith 1-0-2, Sam May 7-1-16, James Burris 2-0-5, Nate Webster 0-0-0, Michai Mason 2-0-6. TEAM TOTALS: 24, 5-9: 58.

LEETONIA SCORING: Jaedon Finley 4-2-10, Dylan Lennon 3-2-10, Joe Guido 2-0-5, Marco Ferry 2-1-5, Timmy Finch 2-0-4, Ian Davis 2-4-8, Timathy Johnson 0-0-0, Andrew Hendricks 0-0-0, Case Henderson 0-0-0, Noah Riffee 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 9-13: 42.

Three-point goals: Southern 5 (Mason 2, May, West, Burris), Leetonia 3 (Lennon 2, Guido).

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