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John Bruce

South Webster surrenders late lead, suffers regional final loss to Hiland

The Jeeps end their season at 23-4.

John Bruce, Staff Writer

Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.

ATHENS — If you would’ve told South Webster that it would hold a lead for over 29 of Friday’s 32 game minutes, the Jeeps probably would’ve felt good about their chances.

But that’s not what destiny had in mind.

The Jeeps, facing Berlin Hiland in a Division IV regional championship, surrendered a late lead before the Hawks (22-6) stole a 48-45 win in overtime to advance — effectively ending SW’s first regional tournament appearance since 2013.

The win marks Hiland’s fifth regional title in the past six seasons.

South Webster’s Tyler Sommer drives to the bucket during Friday’s matchup against Berlin Hiland in a Division IV regional final at Ohio University.
CREDIT: Renee Nemeth/SOSA

“It’s like I told the kids in the locker room … it’s not how it starts, it’s how it ends,” South Webster coach Norm Persin said. “This has got to hurt because there were so many different times we could’ve had the game under control and so many different times we’d turn it over and they’d come down and hit a 3.”

The Jeeps (23-4) made things incredibly difficult for the Hawks, starting from the opening tip.

After getting a stop of the defensive end, Christian White opened SW’s scoring with a nice downhill drive to the hoop before Eli Roberts hit a pair from the line. Owen Mault then connected on a midrange jumper for a quick 6-0 lead.

Turnovers began to mount for the Jeeps, but they were still able to push the lead to 12-4 with 1:33 to play in the first quarter, eventually winning the stanza, 12-6. 

In the second quarter, Roberts knocked down a 15-footer before a driving score from Dylan Shupert expanded the lead further. Roberts then connected on his second triple in the half before a steal and score forced a Hiland timeout with six minutes to play.

Out of the timeout, Hunter Barnard got into the action with a driving layup of his own to push the lead to 23-7 halfway through the quarter. 

The Jeeps’ offense went into hibernation late in the half, going scoreless over the last 5:41. But thanks to an excellent defensive effort, they still held a 23-12 lead at the break.

“You’re going to shoot it well at times and you aren’t. It’s a game of spurts,” Persin said. “That’s what happened tonight. We’d make a run and they’d make a run.”

A triple from Nick Wigton brought the Hawks to within 11 as the half closed, giving Hiland its only 3 in the half — as a team, they were a paltry 1-for-11. Meanwhile, the Jeeps connected on their first nine shots, but also had nine first half turnovers, keeping the game from being a laugher in the first 16 minutes of action. 

Roberts, Jack Timothy and Tyler Sommer combined on the offensive end to slowly extend the Jeeps’ lead early in the third, making it 29-14 before a Sammy Detweiler 3 cut into that margin with 3:26 to play in the third.

That’s when the turnovers began to rear their ugly head again as five giveaways gave the Hawks life. When Detweiler connected on a pull-up jumper in the closing seconds, it made it a 31-21 game heading into the final eight minutes.

Wigton opened the fourth with a deep triple before Detweiler found Samuel Wengard inside for a layup, cutting the deficit to 31-26 at the 7:09 mark.

Roberts answered and built the lead back to nine at 35-26 by knocking down four free throws, but a pull-up from Detweiler and a fast break score for Alex Miller forced a Jeep timeout with 5:38 to play. 

South Webster’s Eli Roberts sizes up a defender during the Jeeps’ regional final loss to Berlin Hiland on Friday.
CREDIT: Renee Nemeth/SOSA

With SW’s lead at just four, White canned a pair at the line, before Brock Campbell connected with Sommer for a fast break score, pushing the lead back to 39-30.

But, as they had all night long, the Hawks continued to chip away.

A deep ball from Detweiler and another layup for Miller brought the Hawks to within four with 3:40 to play. After a silky smooth step back jumper from Roberts took the lead back to 41-35, Wigton responded with a corner 3 with 2:01 to play, making it 41-38. 

“They started hitting some 3’s and that took away us trying to play a zone [defense],” Persin said. “Those are just things that happen. Hiland made plays down the stretch and we couldn’t buy a bucket. That’s how we wound up where we are.”

After another costly South Webster turnover, Miller converted an unlikely three-point play with 1:39 to go. He drove into the lane and was tripped near the free throw line, leading to him tossing the ball high off the glass for the hoop and the harm. After the free throw, Hiland had tied the game for the first time since 0-0. 

The Jeeps ran the clock out before Shupert took a contested shot in the lane, leading to a Hiland rebound. But Shupert made up for the shot on the other end, forcing a defensive five seconds call to get the Jeeps the ball back with 8.1 to play.

Roberts got a decent look at the buzzer, but it wasn’t meant to be, leading to OT. 

In the extra frame, Miller started with a driving layup to give Hiland its first lead of the night. But Shupert tied it with a put back before Roberts converted a pair at the line, making it 45-43.

That, however, would be SW’s last lead of the night. The Hawks scored the game’s final five points.

Wengard sank back-to-back layups before Miller split a pair at the line. The Hawks were then able to withstand a decent deep look from Roberts to make an unlikely return to Dayton. 

Hiland advances to a Division IV state semifinal at 10:45, next Friday at the University of Dayton Arena. The Hawks will play the winner of Toldeo Christian and Lima Central Catholic. 

Statistically, Roberts led the Jeeps with 24 points on only nine shots while Tyler Sommer added 6 points.

The Jeeps had 21 turnovers, leading to 18 points for the Hawks.

“You can’t turn the ball over 21 times against a good team,” Persin said. “We were our own worst enemy tonight. We turned the ball over and missed lay-ups. I know we at least missed three open lay-ups. Uncontested. Nobody was even guarding us.”

The loss ends the Jeeps’ season in a regional title game, which is the third different time South Webster has fallen in the Elite 8 this school year — the Jeeps also bowed out of the tournament at this stage in both boys soccer and volleyball.

The basketball program now says goodbye to three seniors in Sommer, Timothy and Campbell.

“Good kids. We got a lot out of them,” Persin said of his three seniors. “Tyler is going to be a tough to replace. He does a lot of good things for us. Jack, coming into a brand new system that he’s not used to, we got huge minutes from him. Then Brock Campbell, he got to play quite a bit tonight because of his defensive presence. Three great kids. We’ll miss them.”


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