Rogers is one win away from advancing to the state boys basketball semifinals for the second time in three seasons.
The unranked Rams (19-7) built a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, then had to hold on down the stretch to top Anthony Wayne 68-62 in a Division I regional semifinal before a crowd of more than 4,000 on Thursday night at Savage Arena.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Rogers coach Earl Morris said. “The key is that we played good defense in the third quarter. We just played well enough [in fourth] to hang on and win.
“We finally made some free throws, and that’s what helped us down the stretch. We were supposed to be home [eliminated] by now, but we’re just taking it one at a time.”
The Rams, who reached the Division II state semifinals in 2011, will play unranked Brecksville-Broadview Heights (23-3) in the final here Saturday at 3 p.m. Brecksville advanced by beating Macedonia Nordonia 71-68 on Wednesday in a semifinal at Akron.
Rogers’ balanced attack was led by senior guard Clemmye Owens with 19 points.
“Anthony Wayne is tough, and we knew it was going to be hard,” Owens said. “We kept our composure and kept our lead. We just came together as a family.
“That’s been a big thing all year. We came together as one, and we were able to pull it off.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Rams take down Generals
DeVonte Pratt had 15 points, Tribune Dailey 13, and Tony Kynard 11 for the Rams, who had upset state-ranked St. John’s Jesuit and Central Catholic in last week’s districts here.
The Generals (20-5), champions of the Northern Lakes League, were topped by 21 points from junior guard Matt Fox.
Mark Donnal — AW’s 6-foot-10, Michigan-bound center — missed seven minutes with foul trouble, but scored 12 of his 19 points in the final quarter.
“How proud can you be of a team of guys who just don’t quit?” AW coach Bryan Borcherdt said. “It’s just not in their nature to quit. Tonight, that was on display.
“We had some tough situations, and some things that were out of our control. But they battled back, and at the end we had a chance to win the game. As a coach, that’s all I can ask for.”
The Generals trimmed Rogers’ lead down to 63-62 on two Hunter Debo free throws with 36.6 seconds remaining. But the Rams hit five of their six free throws down the stretch to hang on, and AW never scored again.
A key play came with 24.8 seconds left and AW down 65-62. Fox drove the lane and appeared to be fouled by Fadil Robinson (nine rebounds) before colliding with Rogers’ Keandre Gilmer. Fox was instead called for charging.
Kynard hit two at the line, Owens one, and Dailey two in the final 33 seconds.
After Rogers jumped out to an early 9-4 lead, AW got back into the game behind Fox’s 10 first-quarter points pulled the Generals even at 12 entering the second.
The Rams appeared to be in trouble when Kynard, their standout point guard, drew his third foul with six minutes left in the half. But Rogers still took a 27-23 lead to halftime.
Foul trouble then found AW when Donnal drew his fourth on a charge with 5 minutes, 53 seconds left in the third quarter and his team down 30-25. His teammates held the fort until he returned for the fourth-quarter rally.
“I got in some foul trouble and they guys really stepped up in the third quarter,” Donnal said. “They didn’t really miss a beat without me. We made a good run at them in the fourth quarter, but unfortunately in didn’t turn out our way.”
Rogers led 53-41 with 5:42 remaining after Kynard hit a 10-foot floater from the lane. Donnal then energized the AW crowd with a huge slam dunk off a rebound, then followed with four free throws to get the Generals within 57-53 with 2:38 to go.
Rogers was 24 of 55 (44 percent) from the field and topped AW in rebounding 36-27. The Generals were 21 of 47 (45 percent) from the field and committed 12 turnovers to nine for the Rams.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.