By MICHAEL BURWELL
WAPAKONETA — Experience can go a long way, especially during a tournament run.
Add nearly flawless execution on offense and stingy defense and a team can dominate an opponent, and in Arlington’s instance Tuesday night, the Red Devils dominated Spencerville and rolled to a 61-37 victory in a Division IV district boys basketball semifinal at Wapakoneta.
Arlington (19-4) will face Marion Local, which edged Upper Scioto Valley 47-46 in the nightcap, on Friday at 7 p.m. at Wapakoneta High School in the district final.
Despite trailing 12-11 after the first quarter, Arlington, which started four seniors and a junior, stayed patient on offense, while the Red Devil defense allowed only four Spencerville points in the second quarter to take a 25-16 halftime lead.
From there, it only got better for Arlington. Jordan Freed drained three 3-pointers during a 9-2 Arlington run in a two-minute span early in the third quarter to open up a 34-20 lead, and the Red Devils never trailed by less than 11 for the rest of the game.
“They might be young, but all of those kids are really skilled,” Arlington head coach Jason Vermillion said of Spencerville. “They can penetrate, and they can all shoot the basketball, and we thought our best chance was to try to keep them off-balance, and we weathered early on.”
Spencerville, on the other hand, started senior Ben Bowers, a first-team all-Northwest Conference player, two sophomores and two freshmen. Although the Bearcats had a 16-5 record heading into Tuesday’s game, their inexperience showed.
Spencerville shot 10 of 51 (19.6 percent) from the floor, including 5 of 26 (21.7 percent) from three-point range which included several from nearly eight feet beyond the arc. The Bearcats couldn’t get anything going inside either due to the mixture of Arlington’s man-to-man and 2-3 zone defenses.
“I think what happened was we just settled for the first shot we saw instead of waiting to get a better one,” Spencerville head coach Kevin Sensabaugh said. “Unfortunately, when we did get looks, they didn’t go in, and that’s the way it goes.”
Only three players scored for the Bearcats. Sophomore Zach Goecke had a game-high 20 points, Bowers added 15 and sophomore Mason Nourse scored two, which didn’t come until 2:45 left in the game.
Sensabaugh said his Bearcats “Looked like we were young tonight,” but added that it’s not an excuse.
“I’m not sure we ever did anything that resembled a solid basketball team tonight,” Sensabaugh said. “From the start until the finish, they dominated. They beat us on the glass, they beat us up and down the court, they beat us off the dribble. They beat us in every way imaginable and they were better than us.”
Arlington’s Andrew Hunter, who earned Blanchard Valley Conference player of the year honors, got things going with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give Arlington a 14-12 lead with 7:08 left in the second quarter.
After a couple turnovers from both teams, Spencerville’s Goecke, tied it at 14 apiece after his bucket in the paint with 5:23 left in the quarter.
But Arlington finished the half on an 11-2 run with the help of balanced scoring. Aaron Starr’s 3-pointer, Michael Blunk’s old-fashioned three-point play, Blake Courtney’s bucket and Ryan McDowell’s three that hit right between the back of the rim and the backboard and fell in, gave Arlington the momentum.
“The kids just did a great job of not forcing bad shots down the stretch,” Vermillion said. “Just good decisions on their part.”
Freed and Courtney each scored 16 points to lead Arlington, as seven players scored at least four points. The Red Devils shot 18 of 39 (46 percent) from the floor and 18 of 24 (75 percent) from the free-throw line.
Courtney also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds as the Red Devils outrebounded Spencerville 24-20, and Hunter dished out six assists.
Bowers 5-2—15, Z. Goecke 4-10—20, Nourse 1-0—2, Prichard 0-0—0., B. Croft 0-0—0, G. Croft 0-0—0, Long 0-0—0, Meyer 0-0—0, Crider 0-0—0, Wisher 0-0—0, Corso 0-0—0. TOTALS: 10-51 12-16—37.
McDowell 2-0—6, Hunter 1-5—8, Freed 5-3—16, Starr 2-0—5, Glick 2-0—4, Blunk 1-4—6, Courtney 5-6—16, Babb 0-0—0, Durliat 0-0—0, Coleman 0-0—0, Green 0-0—0, Speyer 0-0—0. TOTALS: 18-39 18-24—61.
Spencerville 12 4 11 10 — 37
Arlington 11 14 18 18 — 61
3-POINT GOALS: Spencerville 5-26 (Bowers 3, Z. Goecke 2); Arlington 7-15 (Freed 3, McDowell 2, Hunter & Starr 1).
Rebounds: Spencerville 20 (Z. Goecke 6); Arlington 24 (Courtney 12).
Turnovers: Spencerville 10, Arlington 9.