FINDLAY - The scene was a familiar one for the Toledo Christian boys basketball team - with one important twist.
Last year the Eagles were knocked out of the state tournament when Van Buren put together a near-perfect third-quarter in a district final at Liberty-Benton High School.
Last night it was Toledo Christian that was nearly perfect in the third period in beating Carey 58-48 in the Division IV district semifinal here. The Eagles made 6-of-7 shots from the field in the third to advance to tomorrow night's district final and a rematch with Van Buren, a 65-63 winner over New Riegel in the night's second semifinal.
Toledo Christian coach Dave McWhinnie chalked up his team's 39-point second-half explosion to better execution, especially on offense.
"I thought we were a little sloppy in the first half and gave away some possessions," he said. "When you get a lead at tournament time you find other teams press a little, and I think our kids took advantage of that in the second half."
In the first half both teams struggled with their shooting as the Eagles made 7-of-21 shots - and they had to make three of their last six to reach that number - while Carey connected on just 8-of-22.
Carson Oostra made a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2.6 seconds left in the half to give Toledo Christian a 19-18 lead at the break.
"A lot of [our] shots were shots we designed, they just didn't go in," McWhinnie said. "I thought we left six or eight points on the table. I thought we played a little better than the score indicated in the first half, although we were fortunate to lead at the half.
"I thought if we were just a little patient and kept pounding it in we'd have some success, and that proved true."
Toledo Christian turned the ball over on its first two possessions, then scored on its next five to build a 31-21 advantage. Especially damaging were a pair of 3-pointers by Joe Claytor on back-to-back possessions.
"When Claytor hit the two 3s that took the wind out of our sails," Carey coach C.J. Kin said. "We had a hard time responding from there."
Much of that had to do with the Toledo Christian defense, which allowed the Blue Devils to make just 2-of-11 shots in the third quarter.
"When you score buckets and get a little confidence, it makes it easier to hustle and dive after loose balls," McWhinnie said. "We always say our defense starts our offense, but in this game it might have been reversed.
"We scored a couple of baskets, put the clamps on, and got some separation in the third."
The Eagles led 34-25 entering the final period, then expanded the lead to 54-38 before Carey outscored TC 10-4 in the final
1:12 to make things interesting.
"I thought our defense was strong the whole night," said Toledo Christian's Kyle Whitlow, who finished with a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds. "I think we were able to convert our steals better [in the second half]. We got turnovers in the first half, we just didn't turn them into points.
"In the second half we were able to take those turnovers and convert them into points."
Ethan Michael backed Whitlow with 15 points while Claytor and Oostra each had eight for 21-1 Toledo Christian.
Michael Dennis, a 6-7 sophomore, had 15 points to lead Carey (13-9). The Blue Devils got points from only three others as Derrick Cole had 12, Matt Messmer 11 and Brock Tong 10.
"We knew we had to have bodies on him all game long," McWhinnie said of Dennis. "He does a lot of nice things in the low post, and we knew he would be a challenge for Ethan. I thought we did a good job on him."
Van Buren made 19-of-24 free throws, including 13-of-16 in the final quarter, to hold off New Riegel in the nightcap.
The contest was much closer than the first meeting between the schools on Dec. 27, a game the Black Knights won 83-43.
Last night the Blue Jackets never trailed by more than seven points and forced a 48-48 tie when Dustin Kinn hit a jumper in the lane with 4:45 left in the final quarter. But Van Buren (18-4) used a 5-1 run to build a little cushion, then connected on 10-of-12 free throws over the final 41 seconds.
Matt Phillips led all scorers with 27 points for the Black Knights. Ray Wolfe and Chris Baney added 11 each as Van Buren played without senior starter Logan Grant.
Kinn finished with 25 points to lead New Riegel (14-9), and Ryan Mack added 10.
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