by John Wareham
KETTERING – The East Knox boys’ basketball team had a magical season in which it set school records and won its first district title, but the Bulldogs’ campaign ended Tuesday night with a 60-38 loss to Tri-Village of New Madison in the Division IV regional semifinals at Trent Area in Kettering.
East Knox (19-7) fell behind early and was never able to catch up to the state’s fifth-ranked Patriots (22-3), which has a roster of much taller players, including 6-foot-6 Layne Sarver, who almost had the same number of points as East Knox did as a team.
Sarver finished as the game’s highest scorer with 32 points, which included dunks and points in the paint as well as four three-pointers.
“We got beat. We got beat by a good team with a lot of offensive ability and a lot of height that’s kind of hard to match up with”, Bulldog’s head coach Ryan Powell said.
Both teams had a rough start to the game but Tri-Village’s shots finally started falling and the Patriots led 16-3 after the first quarter.
East Knox brought more intensity after the break, but was behind 32-12 at that point and struggled against a bigger team.
“I thought we were a lot more aggressive in the second half. I wish we had that mentality in the first. I think (the Patriot’s) length just caused us to step back a little bit”, Powell said.
This Bulldogs team, with seniors Peyton Lester, Shane Knepp, Sam Whitney, Eli Carter, Dillon Moreland and Caiden Sloane, set a record for the most wins in a season and became the winningest class in school basketball history, along with becoming the only District title winners thus far.
When the game was out of hand, each senior got into the game, including starter Lester and reserve Sloane, who took and made one shot in the waning moments – a three pointer.
“Right when that last buzzer rang, thoughts of basketball came to the front of my head”, Lester said. “All the great athletes who went through East Knox. I got to play all the great athletes over the state of Ohio.” This, by far, is the most fun basketball programs I’ve ever been through. The kids on this team mean everything to me.”
Tri-Village advances to play Botkins (24-2), which is the state’s No. 1 team.