GROVE CITY — For the second time in the 2019-20 high school sports calendar, a Farrell Steelers team has knocked one of the Maplewood Tigers squads out of the District 10 playoffs.
Following up from the Farrell football team’s victory over Maplewood in the District 10 Class 1A Championship back in November 2019, the Steelers’ boys basketball team followed suit in handing the Tigers an 86-31 defeat at Grove City High School on Friday night to end the campaign in the D-10 Class 2A Quarterfinals.
Eleven of the 13 Steelers (16-7) that took to the court contributed points, with Eric Hopson totaling a game-high 21 with an impressive 8 for 11 clip from short range. Sian Rain and Brian Hilton also added double figures with 11 and 10, respectively.
Joel Cox paced the Tigers with his 13-point effort. Clay Cox and Huston Mattocks added five a piece for Maplewood, as points were hard to come by against the defending District 10 champs and state quarterfinalist.
Although Maplewood came in as the most extreme of underdogs, the Tigers never backed down from the challenge even though the result was fairly one-sided. Maplewood coach Shawn Rhoades and his team knew that they were in for a difficult battle.
“No matter what you do, you can’t prepare for that,” Rhoades said. “There isn’t a team in Crawford County that you can use to simulate that. We played 10 kids against five (in practice). It’s just not the same.”
Hopson opened the scoring with a bucket on Farrell’s third possession, but was quickly answered with a transition lay-up from Tiger senior Jonathan Nageotte. Unfortunately, that would be the only time of the night other than the opening tip that the two teams would be knotted up on the scoreboard.
From there, Farrell took control with an 11-0 run. The Steelers displayed their athleticism and skills in every facet of the game from rebounding to scoring quickly in transition to the occasional bucket from the set offense.
“They’re super athletic,” Rhoades said. “They hit the boards hard. They shoot well. I told our kids just to not quit and keep playing. I think they did that. It’s just a different level. Good luck to anyone that has to deal with them.”
Even as the lead grew bigger for the Steelers over the course of the evening, the effort from the Tigers never diminished, while they played with no fear. Despite having a couple of earlier shots blocked and a couple of dunks thrown down against them by the Region 2 champions, Maplewood fought to the final whistle.
“We told them not to back off or put the reverse in, and just play hard,” Rhoades said. “There’s game where you’re sometimes overmatched, and this was one of them.”
It was the final game for Tiger seniors Jake Brunot, Clay Cox, Joel Cox, Owen Hamilton, Nageotte, Riley Koelle and Walker Wheeling.
“Losing seven guys that have been in the program longer than I have (will be tough),” Rhoades said. “After the guys finish volleyball, we’ll get back after it in the summer.”