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Flyers blow by Tornadoes to win sectional title

St. Joseph Flyers’ Zach McGraw goes up in the air as he drives for a layup against Racine Southern during the Division IV sectional finals on Wednesday. The Flyers beat Southern 61-54 and will play in the district tournament on Wednesday, March 8. (Tim Gearhart of Tim’s News & Novelties, Park Ave. in Ironton)

Jim Walker
jim.walker@irontontribune.com

ROCKSPRINGS — St. Joseph Flyers’ coach Rex Cooksey had his team playing some games at practice, but he wasn’t playing around.
In an effort to improve his team’s foul shooting heading into the postseason, Cooksey had different free throw shooting contests complete with penalties for failing to accomplish their goals.
Those mini-games paid off as the Flyers made 27-of-34 foul shots as they beat the Racine Southern Tornadoes 61-54 to win the Division IV sectional tournament on Wednesday.
The Flyers final 20 points all came from the foul line.
“We’ve been working on them. I’ve ran every kind of competition to try and get better. When you miss you had to run. Our concentration has been better. There were days when we didn’t have to run any sprints,” said Cooksey.
“With about four minutes to go, they started Jimmy Valvano-ing us. I never worried about them making the free throws. They stepped up to the line with confidence.”
St. Joseph (11-12) will now play Beaver Eastern at 8 p.m. next Wednesday at the Ohio University Convocation Center in the district semifinals.
Eastern edged Portsmouth Notre Dame 48-45 in overtime on Wednesday.
“The kids worked extremely hard. (Tre) Neal and (Isaac) Whaley handled the ball well and they had a lot of pressure put on them,” said Cooksey.
“That was a good win for the kids and the fans and for the community.”
It was iron man basketball for the Flyers who were missing backup guard Zach Roach with an injured ankle. St. Joseph played just six players the entire game.
“They were looking for a blow at the end and I told them I’d give them a break in two minutes (when the game was over),” said Cooksey.
Chase Walters scored six points in the first quarter while Isaac Whaley and Clay Willis added 3-pointers and the Flyers led 16-10.
Tylar Blevins had a 3-pointer and three foul shots for Southern.
Walters scored nine points in the second quarter as the Flyers took a 29-17 lead into the dressing room at the break.
The Tornadoes (11-12) cut the deficit to 36-27 at the end of the third quarter to set up the furious finish.
St. Joseph opened up a 14-point lead and Southern changed its strategy.
The Tornadoes began shooting 3-pointers and then fouling the Flyers in hopes of trading 3-for-2 points or even better.
Southern hit five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter — Blake Johnson and Weston Thorla had two each and Dylan Smith one — and cut the deficit to three.
But Neal hit two foul shots to push the lead to five and Southern never got any closer.
The Flyers foiled the Southern strategy by connecting on 21-of-27 attempts. Zach McGraw was 5-of-7, Neal 4-of-6, Whaley 4-of-4 before fouling out, Willis 3-of-4, Peyton Adkins 2-of-2 and Walters 3-of-4.
“We shot the ball pretty well. I thought we played good defense, even in the fourth quarter. They were shooting NBA 3-pointers and they banked in one. None of the 3s was uncontested,” said Cooksey.
“They made their run at us but our kids stepped up and made their free throws.”
Walters was 9-of-13 from the field and finished with a game-high 24 points while McGraw scored 16.
Blevins and Johnson had 12 points each for Southern.
The teams met in the regular season on Feb. 11 with a similar scenario.
Southern trailed St. Joseph by five points after three quarters but outscored the Flyers 25-11 in the fourth quarter as Thorla scored 15 points including three 3-pointers and the Tornadoes won 61-52.
NOTE: Tickets for the game are $6 and are on sale at the school. Fans are encouraged to buy tickets in advance because the school only receives a percentage of the presale.
St. Joseph    16    13    7    25    =    61
Southern    10    7    10    27    =    54
ST. JOSEPH (12-12): Isaac Whaley 0 1 4-4 7 Clay Willis 0 1 5-6 8, Peyton Adkins 0 2-2 2, Zach McGraw 5 0 6-9 16, Trey Neal 0 0 4-6 4, Chase Walters 9 0 6-7 24. Totals: 16-34 27-34 61. 3-point goals: 2-9. Rebounds: 6-O, 18-D = 24 (McGraw 6, Walters 6). Assists: 5 (Whaley 2). Steals: 6 (Adkins 2, McGraw 2). Turnovers: 15. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: Whaley.
RACINE SOUTHERN (11-12): Dylan Smith 0 1 0-0 3, Tylar Blevins 1 1 7-8 12, Blake Johnson 0 4 0-0 12, Eli Hunter 0 0 0-0 0, Trey McNickle 3 0 1-1 7, Weston Thorla 1 2 0-0 8, Kody Greene 0 0 0-0 0, Crenson Rogers 2 0 2-3 6, Trey Pickens 3 0 0-0 6. Totals: 10 8 10-12 54. Fouls: 28. Fouled out: Smith, Johnson, Pickens.