BOWLING GREEN - Perfection for Port Clinton continued last night as the Redskins fought off a hard-charging Defiance team in a thrilling Division II regional semifinal.
Port Clinton improved to 24-0 by holding off a Bulldogs team (21-3) that missed two chances to tie or win it with less than three seconds left. But the Redskins prevailed 45-43 in front of a raucous capacity crowd at Anderson Arena.
Fourth-ranked Port Clinton has reached the Elite Eight and will play Celina for the regional title tomorrow at 3 p.m. at BGSU. Celina (16-8) defeated Lorain Clearview (21-3) 54-45 in overtime in the first semifinal yesterday.
Seventh-ranked Defiance had the ball trailing by two points with 2.2 seconds left and Alex Nofziger lofted an inbound pass toward the basket where Anthony Kidston was waiting. But the ball bounced off the rim and Allen Tigner grabbed the rebound and the win for the Redskins.
"Coming into the game I knew it would come down to a one possession game," PC coach Troy Diels said. "We've been there before with not much time on the clock and a small margin of error.
It was two very good teams going at it. The Defiance kids kept coming. I have a lot of respect for that program."
The Bulldogs trailed throughout nearly the entire contest and were down 36-27 with 7:07 left. But they rallied with a 12-4 run to pull within a point, 40-39, with 2:13 left.
"We dug ourselves a hole, but we still had a great shot at winning it at the end," Defiance coach Kirk Lehman said.
Port Clinton senior Josh Francis, who led all scorers with 19 points, scored inside with one minute left for a 42-39 lead.
But Nofziger, who finished with 10 points, pulled Defiance back within one with a bucket to make it 42-41 with 31 seconds left. Tigner made the front end of one-and-one and then Francis grabbed the rebound and scored on a putback for a 45-41 PC lead.
"Things just fell my way," Francis said. "Coach told me to step up, and I tried to be active the whole game."
But the Bulldogs closed back within one point on Kidston's two free throws with 18 seconds left.
Derek Colston then missed a free throw attempt, and Kidston came up with a rebound. Kidston, who led Defiance with 16 points, then was open for a 3-pointer but missed with 2.2 seconds left.
"That ball seemed to hang up there for an awful long time," Diels said. "Then we didn't get the rebound."
Kidston, who hit two 3-pointers, said: "It felt good leaving my hand,"
Lehman said on the ensuing inbounds he called for Nofziger to loft the ball to Kidston.
"It just wasn't quite on line and the pass hit the rim," Lehman said.
Tigner, who finished with eight points and four steals, then grabbed his fourth board.
"We knew it would be a game of runs and we couldn't panic," Tigner said. "We weren't worrying about losing, we were worrying about winning."
PC took its biggest lead after a 3-pointer by Cory Brown was followed by a steal by Tigner, whose slam dunk made it 29-17 with 4:10 left in the third quarter.
The last time the Bulldogs reached the regional level was in 1977 when Lehman was a junior at the school.
"That was a good atmosphere. It was two teams going at it very hard," Lehman said.
Port Clinton shot 50 percent from the field (17-of-34), including 9-of-17 in the first half when it built a 22-15 lead.
Ryan Hicks had a game-high eight rebounds for PC and Francis had seven. It's the first regional appearance for the Redskins since 1943.
"We'll feel good about this for 10 to 15 minutes. But our minds have moved on to Saturday," Diels said. "The only thing that matter is the next game."
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