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Published: Sunday, 3/28/2010

Port Clinton runs out of gas in state final

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - Jalen Gist took off sprinting, exploded into a cartwheel, landed ideally, and transitioned into a pair of flips, first forward, then backward.

The scene was much different a few feet away as exhausted Port Clinton players moved across the Value City Arena floor to receive their state runner-up medals.

Gist is an undistinguished player for Dayton Dunbar, logging just one minute in Saturday's Division II state boys basketball championship. But he represents the fundamental difference between Dunbar and Port Clinton.

Whereas the Redskins have an extreme shortage of reliable reserves, Dunbar's bench players are doing their best Mary Lou

Retton impersonations.

A discrepancy in athleticism and the fatigue it induced were the biggest reasons Port Clinton dropped its only game of the year 64-50 to the team ranked atop the state poll for most of the season.

Dunks, alley-oop lobs, disruption of passing lanes, Dunbar (25-3) did it all against a Redskins team that played very well in the first half, respectable in the third quarter, and helpless for most of the final eight minutes.

"In the fourth quarter, I think we just sort of wore out and things fell apart a bit," said Josh Francis, one of four seniors on the team.

Francis' belief that the Redskins (26-1) became exhausted somewhere in the third or fourth quarter seems plausible, maybe even understandable.

Port Clinton's Josh Francis, who had 12 points, drives against Dayton Dunbar's Deontae Hawksins
in Saturday's Division II state championship game at Value City Arena in Columbus. Port Clinton's Josh Francis, who had 12 points, drives against Dayton Dunbar's Deontae Hawksins in Saturday's Division II state championship game at Value City Arena in Columbus.
TERRY GILLIAM / AP Enlarge

Only one reserve saw any meaningful action - seven minutes - and Port Clinton's five starters played on average 30 minutes in the 32-minute game.

Conversely, 10 Wolverines played at least five minutes and none of the starters logged more than 28.

Dunbar played with great energy yesterday, evidenced by the use of a full-court press even once victory was inevitable.

"I told my guys that [Port Clinton's] legs will wear," Dunbar coach Peter Pullen said. "I think it showed in their free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter, and toward the end of the game, in one-on-one situations they were losing the ball. That's from fatigue."

The Wolverines applied relentless pressure on defense, particularly in the fourth quarter when they forced turnovers to create fast-break chances. That was their plan early on too, but it ceased working once Port Clinton began consistently making shots to slow down the game.

Things began looking down for the Redskins with about 30 seconds left in the third when Dunbar's Geron Johnson, standing just beyond the 3-point line, lobbed the ball to a leaping Delve' Givens who finished with a powerful slam.

The game was likely over on another dunk, this one by Johnson who put his team ahead 49-40 with five minutes to go on a glass-shaker following a strip of Francis.

According to Dunbar's Ryan Bass, only one Wolverine, 5-foot-8 Javon Rice, is unable to dunk. And how many Redskins are able to elevate for two points?

"On a good day, four," senior Ryan Hicks said. "On a really good day, five. Most days, three."

Hicks and Derek Colston, who hit three 3-pointers in the first half including one that beat the halftime buzzer to put Port Clinton up 27-26, each totaled 15 points. Francis notched 12 but missed all five of his free throw attempts, which he addressed sheepishly after the game.

Francis shouldn't shoulder all of the blame though, as Port Clinton made just seven of 15 attempts from the line.

"You know, coming into the game we were undefeated, and we wanted to finish this out," Francis said. "This really hurts."

Johnson totaled 24 points and seven assists. Bass followed with 13 points.

Redskins point guard Allen Tigner, the hero in a semifinal win over Zanesville, was scoreless and turned the ball over seven times versus five assists.

The season was filled with historic achievements. Port Clinton won its first ever regional title and its first district title since 1943.

"I think it was big for our community to experience it," Port Clinton coach Troy Diels said. "I think it's good for all of our school-aged kids to experience something like that."

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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