Ryan Fruth, left, proclaims Holgate's lofty position in the state while teammate Lee Brubaker takes the title in stride.
COLUMBUS — The Holgate Tigers have heard the chants before.
“Bor-ring! Bor-ring!” screamed the fans from Maria Stein Marion Local during yesterday's Division IV state title game.
Well, now those chants can be replaced by “State champs! State champs!” as the Tigers claimed the first boys basketball title in school history with a 40-32 victory over the Flyers at Value City Arena.
The chants are directed at the Holgate offense, which scored just 38.6 points per game during its seven-game title run. But the Tiger defense made sure that meager total was more than enough to win, limiting the opposition to just 32.4 points per contest in the tournament.
As a result, the 21-6 Tigers can ignore the chants and revel in being state champions.
“I like it [when they chant],” said Holgate junior Drew Clady, who finished with 11 points.
“It gives us more fuel. It's not going to make us rush our offense or anything.”
Earnest Ferguson joined Clady in double figures, finishing with a double-double thanks to game-highs of 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Ferguson, who came off the bench all season, hit 6 of 8 shots from the field and was named the tournament's most outstanding player. In the two games, Ferguson hit 11 of 13 shots from the field.
Holgate's Earnest Ferguson shoots over Marion Local's Cory Luebke. Ferguson had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers, who finish the season 21-6 and capture the school's first state basketball title. Ferguson was named most outstanding player.
Holgate coach Paul Wayne has learned how to silence the critics of his team's slow-motion offense.
“Our offense sputters and mucks along, but it usually does enough to get the job done,” he said.
Yesterday it did more than that: The Tigers scored on three of their first four possessions to build an 8-2 lead less than three minutes into the contest.
Blake Sizemore sank a baseline 3-pointer on Holgate's first possession, and Lee Brubaker hit a jumper from the right elbow on the second.
After a turnover the Tigers' Drew Clady buried a 3-pointer for an 8-2 advantage.
Doesn't seem like much of a lead, does it? With Holgate's suffocating defense, that six-point advantage was an Everest-like mountain the Flyers were never able to overcome.
“That [early start] was huge,” Wayne said. “They do a tremendous job with their match-up zone, and they had to go to a man-to-man in the second quarter — and most of the second half.”
Meanwhile, the Holgate defense blanketed the Flyers, forcing them to miss their first eight 3-pointers after making seven treys in a semifinal win over Sebring McKinley.
Marion Local (18-10) scored only four points in each of the first two quarters and trailed 15-8 at the break.
Holgate coach Paul Wayne celebrates the first state crown in school history as the Tigers beat Marion Local.
“We were not ourselves in the first quarter, and after a while [the lack of offense] got into our heads,” admitted Marion Local coach Keith Westrick.
“We weren't nervous to start the game, but we got nervous as the game went along.
“Their defense stressed us.”
The Tigers led by 11 points in the third quarter after a trey by Clady made the score 21-10 with 5:39 left.
In the fourth period the Tigers built a 33-18 lead with
4:51 to play in the game after
Brubaker made a pair of free throws.
When it was over the Flyers shot just 26.3 percent from the field in the game, scoring on just 14 of their 46 possessions.
The result was just 32 points, the fewest scored in a championship game since Marion Harding lost to Columbus East 41-32 in the 1963 Class AA final.
“You could see them get frustated,” Clady said. “Nobody likes to guard the ball for 30 seconds. It's not the most fun thing in the world to do.”
But the Tigers did more than just guard the ball. When the Flyers missed, Holgate grabbed the rebound, out-boarding Marion Local 34-16.
“That [rebounding advantage] was enormous,” Wayne said. “They only had one offensive rebound in the first half [and three in the game]. We want to win every possession, whether we're up 10 or down 2. Our kids bought into that, and that's why we're successful.
“We're just a bunch of good old country workers with a great work ethic.”
And that's not boring at all — in fact, it's the stuff of which champions are made.
NOTES: The Holgate boys avenged the loss by the Holgate girls to Marion Local in last year's Division IV state title contest. The Tiger girls lost to Marion Local 46-28. ... Holgate won in its third appearance in the state tournament. The Tigers lost in the quarterfinals of the 1940 Class B tournament and in the semifinals of the 1953 tourney.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481.