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North - Dixie Open State Tournament
J. C. Tilton

Tournament time is always an exciting time. For Seniors it's their last chance on the court, and they are giving it their all for 4 quarters. The crowd is buzzing and the atmosphere is electric. Unusual things can happen. Unlikely hero's can step up to make a difference. The North - Dixie game had all of these elements. It was a close fight to the finish - with overtime that made the trip to Kettering Fairmont's gym worthwhile.

In the first half the two teams sparred slowly. Only 6 points was scored by each team in the first quarter. North opened with man to man and Dixie slid into their familiar half court zone. The Greyhounds did spring an occasional half court trap to try and capture some turnovers. North did press a little, but kept their defense at half court for the most part. Later in the game they would switch to zone.

It must have been a combination of the new gym, stout defenses and tournament jitters, but neither team put on an offensive performance in the first half. It was 13-12 North at the break. Interestingly, each teams feature player did not score well in the first half. North's Mitch Heltsley had but 2 points, scored with a minute left in the half, while Johnny Adams only a free throw to show for his efforts. I recall saying that one team or the other would break it open in the second half. But the hoop would grow in size for both teams as the score board began to light up in the third quarter.

Ethan Blankenship lead scoring in the first half with 6 points. But senior Mitch Heltsley went to work in the third quarter with 12 points - equaling the Dixie's team score for the entire first half. But Dixie was not sitting on their hands. Forward Kevin McBain lead third quarter scoring for the Hounds with back to back treys and Andrew Thacker gave quality minutes with 2 baskets at the end of the quarter to briefly tie the game. North's Dan Baumbarger gave the Panthers the lead going into the 4th quarter with a late basket to put North up 28-26.

North maintained a narrow lead until about midway thru the fourth quarter. Greyhound Alex Denny provided the push to put Dixie up for the first time in this quarter. He turned around and extended the lead with an old fashioned three point lead. Providing 5 points of offense in about a minute. Suddenly North was down by 4 with about two and half minutes left. As the time slipped away North resorted to fouling. At one point they were down by 5 with less than 20 seconds left. A Ty Dunham bucket pulled North back within 3.

Next was a curious sequence of events. North fouled and sent Dixie to the line. The referee incorrectly indicated two shots. Actually the foul count was at 9 and it was a 1 and 1 situation. The shot missed - but no one moved. Some one from the crowd yelled that it was a live ball and a Dixie player was fouled in the mayhem. The referee's huddled to discuss the situation after the whistle. The call - jump ball after the missed free throw - possession arrow…North! Time was set at 5 seconds. North had an inbounds play, the ball flew down the court to Ethan Blankenship who shot and at the buzzer sunk an off balance three point shot to send the game into overtime.

In the overtime Dixie's Jared Moore and Kevin McBain hit a couple of three's early to build a small lead. North stayed on their heels but with a minute left Ben Spahr hit a free throw to give Dixie a 5 point lead. Mitch Heltsley hit 3 shots down the stretch, but Sean Kummer hit from the field and Johnny Adams tossed in a free throw to hold the Panthers at bay. Dixie received their first playoff victory in about 10 years with a 50-48 victory.

North's coach Waggoner rehashed the game, “I thought Dixie was very explosive and it scared me. I was worried that once Adams got going the rest of team fed off of him and it would be over. We wanted to keep the game kind of where we kept it, low scoring. They hit some key shots down the stretch. It was an inability by us to finish the game that did it. They were 7 of 9 shooting free throws in the 4th and we were 2 of 5, missing a front end of a 1 and 1. On the plus side the zone did a good job of keeping Adams out of his game.”

“We were worried the whole game, I mean we weren't playing well”, quipped coach Miller when asked about going into overtime with North. “You have to give the North kids credit, they played us hard. We were 4 out of 24 shooting in the first half. But we only gave up 13 points in the first half, that was the good thing. McBain had 4 three's, 3 of them in the second half, that was big. Alex Denny hit some big shots for us tonight and gave us some momentum.” He was asked about Adams being held to just 5 points, ”We have learned to play as a team, when someone gets shut down, someone else steps it up.”

High points for North was Mitch Heltsley with 22 points. High points for Dixie was Kevin McBain with 14. Comments:

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