By Chris Chaney
The postseason in high school basketball shines bright with the renewed hope of starting fresh and making an improbable run. However, for the nine Clermont County boys’ basketball teams in sectional tournament action this past weekend, that hope was snuffed out before it even had a chance to flicker.
In four games on Friday, Feb. 22 and in five on Saturday, the 23, all nine Clermont came up short, ending their seasons unceremoniously.
The only team that remains at the time of this posting is Clermont Northeastern. By virtue of their draw, the Rockets decided to take advantage of a first-round bye that was available to them to face No. 4 seed Aiken on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Aiken earned the right to play CNE by dispatching of Bethel-Tate on Friday night, 79-36.
Among those expected to contend in their first-round games, Amelia and Milford in Division I made valiant efforts to survive and advance. The Barons entered their first-round game at Oak Hills on Friday night with a game plan to outwork their counterparts, rendering the Cardinals’ athleticism useless.
“With us being Division I, we know it’s never going to be easy,” Amelia coach Craig Mazzaro said. “(Colerain) has a really good team with some really good athletes, good defenders, so (we knew) we would have our work cut out for us in that one.”
The Cardinals’ nagging defense and full-court pressure forced the Barons to speed up a bit, making some turnovers, allowing Colerain to score some transition baskets. And in the end, the superior size and rebounding ability of Colerain ended an Amelia run before it could get some traction.
For Milford, the Eagles had a familiar first-round opponent in Mason High School. The two teams had met earlier in the season with Mason coming out on top, 56-51. However, head coach Joe Cambron and his team had rounded into form since that loss in late December and thought that they could reverse their fortunes in the sectional tournament. Winning five of their last six regular season games had Milford flying high coming into the tilt with the Comets, but they were brought back down to earth for a slug-it-out first-round game that was tight throughout.
Despite trailing early on, the Eagles took a 23-22 lead into the locker room and stayed within striking distance heading into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Mason’s Matt Beebe got scalding hot coming down the stretch, burying three-pointer after three-pointer, keeping Milford at arm’s length.
Unable to crack the Comets’ code late, the Eagles were forced to foul to extend the game, but Mason didn’t give them enough room to work with as Milford fell 55-46.
In Division IV, Felicity found themselves in a 8/9 matchup with St. Bernard. The Cardinals were able to put the Titans on the ropes, outscoring them 20-9 in the third quarter to take a seven-point lead into the final frame. But once again, a Clermont opponent caught fire, with St. Bernard scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter to eek out a four-point win.
Other games: Glen Este, the third Division I team, faced an uphill battle as they played No. 5 seed Lakota East. The Thunderbirds defeated the Trojans 73-48.
Division II was tough on Clermont County schools with four teams losing by an average of 31.25 points. Bethel and Batavia were the most egregious, losing by 43 and 42, respectively. New Richmond fell to sixth-seeded Indian Hill 60-47 and Goshen was dropped by No. 7 seed Wyoming, 66-39.
In Division III, Williamsburg saw their season come to an end on Saturday evening as the Wildcats fell to sixth-seeded Clark Montessori 85-38, despite 18 points from the school’s all-time leading scorer Kendal Young.