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Hornets win district title, beat Waterford for regional berth

Coal Grove Hornets’ Evan Gannon (3) puts up a shot against Waterford’s Russ Young during Thursday’s Division IV district title game. Coal Grove won, 61-56. (Photo Courtesy of Tim Gearhart)

Jim Walker

ATHENS, OH — They’re baaaack!
Not only that, the Coal Grove Hornets are back-to-back district champions for the first time in school history after rallying in the second half to beat the Waterford Wildcats 61-56 in the Division IV district finals on Thursday at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.
Coal Grove will play in the regional semifinals at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the Convocation Center against the winner of Friday’s game between Berlin Hiland and Strasburg-Franklin.
The other regional game is at 6:15 between New Boston and the Fisher Catholic-Berne Union winner. Semifinal winners meet at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 15.
Coal Grove (18-6) trailed by as many as eight points in the first half and by three points at halftime before putting together a strong second half.
“We didn’t play our best but we found a way to win. We made a lot of clutch plays,” said Hornets’ coach Kevin Vanderhoof.
“It’s exciting. I’m so happy for those kids. Everybody who has played for us has made it possible. They all worked hard. And our community has given us great support.”
Aaron Music’s three-point play had the Hornets up 7-3 early but the Wildcats got 3-point baskets by Zane Heiss, Luke Teters and Peyton Stephens to take a 16-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Nick Fouss hit a 10-footer to start the second quarter and it was 18-10 with 7:22 on the clock.
But Coal Grove got two straight baskets each by Nate Harmon and Payton Smith and a 3-pointer from Evan Gannon to take a 21-18 lead with 3:33 left in the half.
Gannon’s triple with two minutes left had the Hornets up 26-22 but the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run to close the half and it was 29-26.
Cory Borders hit a long trifecta to tie the game at 33 in the fourth quarter but Holden Dailey converted a three-point play and hit a 15-footer to put Waterford up 38-33.
A trey by Heiss gave Waterford a 43-35 lead with 2:26 to go in the quarter only to have Coal Grove’s offense ignite with a 10-1 run capped by Jaylen McKenzie’s driving layup at the buzzer and the Hornets led 45-44.
“That big shot at the end of the third quarter by McKenzie was the turning point. That got us going,” said Vanderhoof. “I thought Nate Harmon played well for us.”
Stephens sank a foul shot to start the fourth quarter and tie the game, but Music’s layup and a clutch 3-pointer by Evan Holmes gave Coal Grove the lead for good at 50-46.
Waterford (17-7) cut the deficit to 54-53 on a 3-pointer by Heiss with 3:25 left only to have Borders hit a 12-footer and Music a foul shot for a 57-53 lead.
Nate Harmon sank two key free throws with 1:36 to go and Music added two more with 49 seconds on the clock for a 61-56 lead.
Music led Coal Grove with a game-high 20 points leaving him 10 shy of 1,000 for his career. He also had eight rebounds and four steals.
Harmon added 10 points and five rebounds while Gannon scored 10 points. McKenzie had four assists.
Heiss hit five 3-pointers and scored 18 points for Waterford. Young had 12 points and nine rebounds with Dailey getting 11 points and five boards.
Waterford 16 13 15 12 = 56
Coal Grove 10 16 19 16 = 61
WATERFORD (17-7): Holden Dailey 5 0 1-1 11, Russ Young 4 0 4-4 12, Luke Teters 0 1 0-0 3, Nick Fouss 3 0 2-4 8, Wes Jenkins 0 0 0-0 0, Zane Heiss 0 5 3-4 18, Peyton Stephens 0 0 4-6 4. Totals: 18-37 14-19 56. 3-pt goals: 6-10. Rebounds: 30 (Young 9, Dailey 5). Assists: 5. Steals: 5 (Dailey 2). Turnovers: 19. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: None.
COAL GROVE (18-6): Aaron Music 8 0 4-8 20, Cory Borders 1 2 0-0 8, Evan Gannon 1 2 2-2 10, Evan Holmes 0 1 0-0 3, Nate Harmon 3 0 4-4 10, Jaylen McKenzie 3 0 0-0 6, Payton Smith 2 0 0-0 4. Totals: 23-47 10-14 61. 3-pt goals: 5-10. Rebounds: 23 (Music 8, Harmon 5). Assists: 8 (McKenzie 4). Steals: 10 (Music 4, Borders 2). Turnovers: 10. Fouls: 14. Fouled out: None.