Damond Powell celebrates as time runs out on Rogers' victory over Rocky River. The Rams will advance to the D-II state semifinal.
The Rams fought off a late surge by Rocky River and scored a 78-68 victory in a Division II regional final Saturday afternoon at Anderson Arena.
J.R. Rayford scored a team-high 22 points, including some clutch free throws down the stretch, to lead a balanced Rams attack.
Clemmye Owens tallied 18 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, while Damond Powell provided 16 points to help the Rams (16-5) secure a spot in the D-II final four. The Rams will face the St. Bernard Roger Bacon-Dayton Marshall winner at 2 p.m. Thursday in a state semifinal at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
"When we started the season we all had a goal that we're going to make it to the final four," Rogers coach Earl Morris said. "These kids have done everything that I've asked of them and there's no coach that is more proud of his team than I am."
Rogers owned a double-digit lead for most of the contest. The Rams went ahead by as much as 18 points in the third quarter after taking a 35-27 advantage into halftime after a momentum-swaying 28-footer from Owens just as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Click here for a Rogers-Rocky River photo gallery.
"That's my role and I can shot the ball and my teammates believe in me," said Owens, a 5-foot-10 sophomore.
Powell, the area's top D-II player, and his teammates stood in the middle of the celebrating with a couple dozen Rams supporters who rushed the court at game's end.
"It's real big," Powell said of winning the school's first regional title and moving on to state. "I'm glad I'm doing it with this group. We're more than just teammates, we're friends."
Morris said Owens' second-quarter ending bucket from long range couldn't have come at a better time for Rogers. The Pirates (22-3) had trimmed the Rams' lead and were gaining confidence.
"It was a big shot for us because it put us up by eight instead of five at halftime," Morris said. "We were struggling, but he took the shot and made it."
Rogers opened the third quarter with a quick 12-2 run and led 47-29 when Owens nailed his second 3-pointer of the night with 6:01 left in the period.
But the Pirates didn't fold and gradually cut away at Rogers' lead, which stood at 12 points, 53-41, by the end of the third quarter.
Rocky River, which committed 22 turnovers against the Rams' defensive pressure, wouldn't go away and came as close as seven points of Rogers late in the contest.
Jimmy Corrigan, who led the Pirates with 23 points, sank four free throws after a foul by Rogers' Dominique Jackson with just under three minutes to play.
Jackson then was hit with a technical foul for disputing the call. After Corrigan made the two foul shots and two technicals, Rogers' lead stood at 67-60 with 2:51 left in the game.
But the Pirates could get no closer. The Rams sank 9 of 12 free throws during the final two minutes to seal the victory. Rayford went 5-for-6 from the foul line during that stretch.
Rogers made 25 of 38 free throws for the game compared to a 15-for-24 effort by Rocky River.
"They're a great basketball team on both ends of the court," Rocky River coach Michael Murray said of the Rams. "They play great defense and play great offense and they really share the basketball."
The Pirates found it difficult to score against the Rams, particularly from 3-point range where they connected for only 3 of 22 (14 percent).
"They always keep you on your heels," Murray said. "It's hard to attack a team like that with their speed."
Joey Kinsley finished with 15 points for Rocky River, but Kyle Dunne, who is one of their top offensive players, was limited to four points on a 2-for-10 shooting performance.
"They missed five or six easy shots because they had to exert so much energy to try and get back," Morris said.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6302.