Kevin Goheen reports:
Withrow and Lakota West won semifinal games Sunday night to reach the championship game of the inaugural LaRosa’s Royal 8 Hardwood Classic at Fairfield. Both teams can thank their plethora of guards for getting them there.Lakota West outscored St. Xavier 9-4 over the final 2:05 to knock off the No. 3-ranked team in the Enquirer’s Division I coaches’ poll 55-50 in the first semifinal. The unranked Firebirds improved to 9-4 with their fifth consecutive win as guards Ali Barnes, Malik Grove and Tyler Williams all scored in double figures.
Fourth-ranked Withrow harassed No. 7 and host team Fairfield into 16 turnovers, holding the Indians to 17 points in the second half, en route to a 52-41 victory in the second semifinal. The Tigers improved to 12-1 on the season behind 17 points and eight rebounds – six on the offensive glass – by senior guard Corey Wise.
Tip-off for Monday’s championship game is scheduled for 8 p.m. St. Xavier (10-3) and Fairfield (9-5) will play for third place at 6 p.m.
Fairfield had a 10-0 run in the first quarter to take a 14-6 lead and led 16-10 with 1:39 remaining in the quarter but Withrow’s defense allowed just 25 points the final 25-plus minutes of the game.
“I don’t always know about these guys but I know they’re always going to play hard and they don’t want to lose,” said Withrow coach Ty Gilbert. “Nothing fazes them. We were down 16-10 and they’re telling me in the huddle ‘Calm down, coach. We’re good.’ They calmed me down.”
The Tigers out-rebounded Fairfield 30-24, including grabbing 21 offensive rebounds. They outscored Fairfield 18-8 in second-chance points.
“They kept us at bay by the glass,” said Fairfield coach Tim Austing. “Every time we got a big stop and could make a run they’d get a stick-back. So much of what we do is transition but if you’re not getting rebounds you can’t run the (fast) break.”
Wise made all seven of his free throws before fouling out going for a steal with 3:09 remaining in the game. He had just one rebound in Saturday’s first-round win against Turpin.
“I let him know that,” said Gilbert. “He always plays good defense but today he rebounded the basketball.”
Timothy Coleman added 11 points for Withrow, while forward Darius Cannon had 10 points and six rebounds.
Fairfield was led by guard Herman Brunis’ 17 points and guard T.C. Wells’ 11 points and seven rebounds.
Lakota West didn’t trail against St. Xavier until the fourth quarter. Barnes, a senior, scored 18 points, including hitting 9 of 10 free throws, and added six assists against just one turnover for Lakota West.
The Firebirds shot 52.9 percent from the field, making 18 of 34 shots. Conversely, St. Xavier struggled from the field. The Bombers were just 21 of 61 shooting overall, including making just six of their 26 3-point attempts.
Senior guard Ben Carroll led St. Xavier with 14 points but he had just two points in the second half.
“We just didn’t hit enough shots,” said St. Xavier coach Scott Martin. “We only had three turnovers, so we took care of it and got a lot of good shots but the last couple of games we’ve lost our shooting touch.”
The Firebirds have dealt with injuries to some of their top players this season, including losing guard Monty Boykins to an ACL injury, but have begun to find their groove.
“It helps to have the depth we have and we’re definitely figuring out who can play late in the game, early in the game,” said Barnes.
Grove had 13 points, while Williams scored 12 points, including three 3-pointers.
Lakota West out-rebounded St. Xavier 30-29 despite being at a height and weight disadvantage inside. Junior center Tyler Bowling grabbed eight rebounds, including seven on the defensive end where Lakota West held a 26-15 advantage.
Lakota West 55, St. Xavier 50
Lakota West (9-4)- Barnes 4 9 18, Bowling 2 0 4, Williams 3 3 12, Peterkin 2 0 4, Grove 5 1 13, Martin 2 0 4. Totals: 18 13 55.
St. Xavier (10-3)- Carroll 6 0 14, King 1 0 3, Mills 1 0 2, Blink 2 0 5, Gellenbeck 1 0 2, Barrett 5 2 13, Hadden 5 0 11. Totals: 21 2 50.
Halftime: Lakota West 31-26. 3-pointers: LW 6 (Williams 3, Grove 2, Barnes); SX 6 (Carroll 2, King, Blink, Barrett, Hadden).