BUCYRUS — Gannon Seifert and his Clear Fork teammates stayed on the floor at Alex Kish Memorial Gymnasium exchanging hugs and wiping away tears with parents and coaches.
“It stinks right now. We’ve been playing together with each other since day one, going back to The Friendly House,” said Seifert, who had 11 points.
The Tygers (19-4) prevailed 47-42 in a battle of former Ohio Cardinal Conference rivals in the Division II sectional final at Bucyrus High School. They advanced to the Northwest District semi-final game Wednesday against Vermillion, who beat Shelby.
“They (Mansfield) played good defense all game; putting pressure on us,” he said.
Despite the tenacious pressure applied by Senior High, the Colts only turned the ball over 9 times.
The Colts finish a great season at 19-5, including an MOAC championship.
“You expect them to go on a run. You expect pressure. You expect everything that happened in this game. They just made the plays when they really needed to,” head coach Steven Bechtel said.
The Colts scored 14 points off Senior High’s 17 turnovers.
Jared Schaefer led the Colts with 13 points, including a steal and lay-up that cut the score to 39-36 with 1:30 to play in the game.
Seniors AJ Blubaugh had 4 points and Jay Swainhart 2. Junior Brennan South added 8.
“I know we didn’t get to cut down the nets tonight, but we got the first outright league championship in 40-some years. I was not afraid of losing this game,” Bechtel said.
Quan Hilory had 11 for Senior while a quartet of Tygers — De’Zion Taylor, Cameron Todd, Jakobe Reese and Angelo Grose — scored 5 points apiece. Dontavius Burtin had 6, among them a thunderous dunk.
Tygers coach Marquis Sykes stresses defense to his team every day.
“Everybody doesn’t have the depth we do to bring guys in off the bench,” Sykes said.
Mansfield Senior led 25-20 at halftime and built a 35-24 margin heading into the fourth quarter.
It was the second straight year the Tygers eliminated the Colts in the sectional finals.
“It’s developing into a nice little rivalry,” Sykes said. “It was a tough, hard-fought game. We made some plays and came away with a tough win.”
The Colts cut it down to 3- and 4-point margins several times in the second half.
“We did a lot of good things. We didn’t make certain shots when we really needed to or that 1 basket to cut it to 1 or tie it up. I’m extremely proud of all those kids, especially those 4 seniors, who have really carried this program for the last 3 or 4 years,” Bechtel said.
“The part you hate most is having to say good-bye to those 4 seniors because of what they’ve meant to the program.”