BOWLING GREEN - Continental did just about everything right for three quarters, building a 15-point lead, then survived Tiffin Calvert's furious fourth-quarter rally by hitting free throws down the stretch in taking a 64-58 victory last night in the Division IV boys regional basketball championship at Anderson Arena.
District player of the year Kurtis Brown shook off a two-game tourney slump to lead the 11th-ranked Pirates with 23 points and nine assists, hitting five of six free throws in the final 30 seconds to ice things for the Putnam County League champions.
Sophomore guard Nathan Schmidt (14 points) hit two clutch free throws with 54.9 seconds to go after Calvert (20-5) got within 57-53 on two free throws from Aaron Mass (18 points).
The Pirates (22-3) will play a D-IV state semifinal 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Value City Arena in Columbus against top-ranked Columbus Africentric (25-1). Africentric, in its second year of existence, beat state Division I power Brookhaven in the Columbus city league title game. Its only loss was at Libbey, 70-50 on Dec. 4.
Continental, making its third trip to state, lost in the Class-A semifinals to Morral Ridgedale in 1972, and to eventual champion Fort Loramie in 1977, when current coach Kevin Homier was a starting guard.
His team played like it wanted desperately to end the 27-year absence, getting the jump on the Senecas in the hustle department from the opening tap.
"We were 32 minutes from going where we wanted to go for a long, long time," Homier said. "At the beginning, we just took it from them. We wanted it.
"We always try to set the tone by attacking [offensively and defensively], and that's what we did tonight."
With 5-9 sophomore Ben Miller providing the spark, the Pirates, who never trailed, grabbed a 16-8 lead after one quarter.
Miller (nine points) grabbed eight of his 12 rebounds in the first half, with five offensive boards in the first quarter to go with three steals.
Continental led by 16 on two occasions in the second quarter before taking a 32-19 lead to halftime. The Pirates' biggest lead of the game (43-26) came on a Miller put-back with 1:07 left in the third quarter.
Down 45-30 entering the final period, Calvert awakened via the 3-point arc. First, Josh Graham (14 points) hit three free throws after being fouled on a triple try.
Then came a barrage of five 3-pointers, four from Ryan Kommick (16 points) and one from Brad Walliser, which made it 51-45 with 4:31 left.
"Once Brad hit his 3, I really thought we were going to win," Kommick said. "We were playing better defense, getting steals and finally boxing out. And, we were nailing everything."
Kommick's final trey, banked in from the left wing, got Calvert within 59-56 with 0:47 left.
"What caused us to get in that hole was that we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half," Calvert coach Tony Mass said.
"I have to give our kids credit for battling back. They showed a great amount of heart and pride, and just kept working."
Continental was 24-of-47 (51 percent) from the field, 13-of-19 from the line, and matched Calvert's 29 rebound total. The Senecas, who were vying for their first state semifinal berth, were 20-of-46 (44 percent) from the field and 12-of-16 from the line.
"We played pretty good until then," Homier said of the final quarter. "We were so dang glad they didn't do that [hit 3-pointers] for the first 3 1/2 quarters. Give Calvert a bunch of credit. They never quit.
"I'm not so sure we didn't run out of gas a little bit there at the end, to be honest."
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