By John Bombatch
KETTERING — Yellow Springs wasn’t fazed at all by Lima Perry’s swarming man-to-an defense, and responded by applying some defensive pressure of its own.
That pressure — a seldomly used 2-3 zone defense — enabled the Bulldogs to explode for an 18-2 run to start the second half, and Yellow Springs claimed a 61-43 win in the Division IV regional semifinal game at James S. Trent Arena.
For all the trouble Perry gave the Bulldogs with their defense in the first half, Yellow Springs trailed by just five points, 25-20, at halftime.
The Bulldogs coughed the ball up seven times in the first half, but they seemed to give the Commodores a taste of their own medicine, especially late in the half when Yellow Springs first switched to its zone defense.
Perry gave up the ball 10 times in the first half, and six consecutive turnovers occurred in the final three minutes of the second quarter, when the Bulldogs got into their zone.
Yellow Springs coach Steve Grasso said the late first-half turnover binge set the tone for the rest of the game.
“We were giving in to their pressure a little bit in the first half, so we switched things up and played our zone defense, which we hadn’t played this whole entire tournament,” Grasso explained. “When we switched, we ended the game on a 45-19 run.
“We were down 12 at one point and ended up winning by 18.”
Unofficially, Yellow Springs hit 8 of 21 shots from the floor in the first half, while Perry connected on 10 of 18. The Bulldogs hit just 2 of 10 3-point tries in the half, but trailing by just five points, Grasso said he and the team felt they were still in the game at halftime.
“All season long, we had the belief in each other, and the coaches believed in them. I want to give a shout out to coach Bob Crawford who has been the glue of the whole entire program for the past three years. He wakes up and works out with the kids at 8 in the morning, when I’m asleep and can’t make it. He cares so much about these young men, I just want to make sure that he gets recognized.”
The Bulldogs’ scoring depth showed up again against Perry.
This time, Metro Buckeye Conference first-team pick Kaner Butler tossed in a game-high 18 points, 14 of which was scored in the second half. Ethan Dewine scored a dozen points, MBC Player of the Year Isaiah Taylor added 11 and league second-teamer Devon Perry finished with nine.
Lima Perry’s Jakoby Lane Harvey was the Northwest Central Conference’s Player of the Year with a 16.5 points per game scoring average, but Yellow Springs limited him to six points. Kobe Glover was the top scorer for the Commodores (22-4) with 12, and Orion Munford finished with 10.
“I think it was a tale of two halves,” Perry coach Matt Tabler said. “When they extended their 2-3 zone late in the first half, especially with their big guy, Isaiah Taylor, in the middle, there was just so much we could do. … We stopped attacking the basket and we just couldn’t make our shots after that.”
The Bulldogs will now face Jackson Center for the Division IV regional championship. That game is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Trent Arena.
“We’re really excited, we’ll be back here to play against a really strong opponent in Jackson Center, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity,” Grasso said.