COLUMBUS - With national power Cincinnati North College Hill on the menu for heavy underdog Archbold in last night's Division III state basketball semifinals, the Blue Streaks and the 14,119 in attendance were stunned by a special order - "Hold the Mayo!"
With Ohio's two-time Mr. Basketball O.J. Mayo and his 28.5 points-per-game average back home in Cincinnati because of a school disciplinary matter, Archbold's Blue Streaks had things much easier than anticipated.
They were not easy enough, however, as the Trojans took a 49-34 victory and advanced to tomorrow's 2 p.m. D-III state final against Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (21-5).
As it turned out, the Streaks were undone by their 10-of-43 (23 percent) shooting.
"We didn't change anything," Archbold coach Doug Krauss said of Mayo's absence. "But we just needed to knock some shots down, whether O.J. was here or not."
Mayo - a 6-foot-5 junior regarded as one of the nation's top prep players - was sidelined by NCH principal Kelly Hughes.
"Due to the student's privacy no further particulars will be released by North College Hill City School District," Hughes' statement said.
The 25-1 Trojans, the No. 3 team in the nation in the latest USA Today poll, are bidding to repeat their D-III state title.
"As a team, we played well and we came together and we got through another day," Trojans coach Jamie Mahaffey said. "We've been through a lot of controversy today, a lot of issues. We have a family here and we've been moving on all year. We're going to keep on moving on."
With one star out, a teammate whose talent compares favorably with Mayo's - explosive 6-6 forward Bill Walker - carried NCH with 23 points and 13 rebounds. His 9-of-15 shooting included five backboard-rattling dunks. No other Trojan scored in double figures.
The Blue Streaks (21-5), playing in their third state semifinal in four years, were paced by 12 points each from sophomore forward Gene Goering and junior guard Josh Wyse.
The Streaks opened with a deliberate offensive scheme, a logical strategy that kept them relatively close throughout.
The Trojans were scoreless for the game's first 3:42, a drought broken by a monster slam dunk by All-Ohioan Walker. The Streaks took a 7-2 lead on Goering's 3-pointer with 2:10 left in the first quarter.
But Walker's 3-pointer 22 seconds later, and teammate Paul Leary's 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in the quarter gave the Trojans an 8-7 edge at period's end. Archbold would never again lead.
Its slowdown may have kept the Trojans from exploding toward their 86-points-per-game average, but Archbold's tentative approach on several prime inside scoring chances proved costly. Many of the misses came on wide-open looks from the perimeter (4-for-22 on 3-pointers), with several others coming on blown layups.
"This whole week we were working on shot-faking because we knew they were going to try to block a lot of shots," Goering said. "But sometimes they didn't even try to block the shot. We were intimidated at times."
Walker rammed down two other dunks as his team took a modest 23-14 lead to halftime.
"We had a really good start and we did what we wanted to early," Archbold coach Doug Krauss said. "We spread the floor, ran the clock, had a couple good looks and knocked a couple down.
"Even at that stage [down 23-14] of the game you're not feeling too bad. But the shots just weren't falling for us. That was it pretty much in a nutshell - shots didn't fall."
North College Hill didn't fare much better shooting, hitting 19 of 47 (40 percent) in a sloppily-played 31-turnover game.
Archbold trailed 37-20 after three quarters, and its biggest deficit was 45-24 with 4:11 to play.
"It was like a man playing against us little kids," said 6-1 senior Streak Josh Johnson, who guarded Walker. "But you can't really do anything about it. I just had to guard him the best I could."
For the Trojans, whose average margin of victory this year was 30 points (48 in tourney play), the 49-point total was their lowest of the season.
"We knew going in that we had our hands full," Krauss said. "That's an understatement. But we also felt we had a plan that would allow us to be able to compete.
"Of course, part of that plan was putting the ball in the basket a little bit. Sometimes plans don't work out the way you want 'em to."
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