By MICHAEL BURWELL
When a coach says that the three-point line is more of a “suggestion” for a player, he must have some range.
Enter Taren Sullivan, Lima Bath’s 6-foot-6 senior forward.
Sullivan drained eight 3-pointers and scored a game-high 32 points as the Wildcats’ offense couldn’t be stopped in a 76-56 win over Upper Sandusky in a Division II district semifinal boys basketball game at Liberty-Benton on Wednesday.
Lima Bath (19-4) will face Elida, which knocked off Kenton 60-47 in the opener, in Saturday’s 7 p.m. district final.
The Wildcats lost to Elida twice during the regular season. Upper Sandusky, meanwhile, finishes its’ season at 12-12.
“He makes me a good coach,” Lima Bath head coach Doug Davis said of Sullivan. “He shot the ball really well tonight.
“I guess people who haven’t seen him play got a look at what he’s capable of doing.”
And he was certainly capable of taking over Wednesday night’s game.
Sullivan, a first-team all-Western Buckeye League player who will play for the University of Findlay next year, scored 21 points in the first half, included in his total was five 3-pointers. Several came from well beyond the three-point line, hence Davis said that the line is “a suggestion for him.”
The second quarter, though, was when his athleticism showed.
After dishing out three assists on three straight possessions late in the second quarter, including two to senior forward Colin Gossard that pushed Lima Bath’s lead to 36-22, Gossard returned the favor.
He threw the ball off the backboard after forcing an Upper Sandusky turnover, and a trailing Sullivan threw down a one-handed dunk to give Lima Bath a 38-22 lead with 1:16 left in the first half, its’ biggest up to that point.
“Those two are senior leaders of this team, and they’re stepping up at the right time,” Davis said.
The Wildcats went on a 30-10 run in an eight-minute span in the second and third quarters to extend the lead to 58-30 with 3:10 left in the third-quarter. Lima Bath shot 30 of 57 (53 percent) from the floor, including 12 of 28 (43 percent) from three-point range.
“Going in I said to them ‘we got to hope that Sullivan misses some deep threes,'” Upper Sandusky head coach Jeff Winslow said. “I didn’t want him posting up and driving all night long, so I said ‘let’s have a hand up and make him shoot three feet behind the arc.’ Well, he did…”
Although Upper Sandusky had trouble slowing down Lima Bath’s offense, the Rams shot the ball well (24 of 48). However, 18 turnovers, with 12 coming in the first half, and a long-armed Wildcat defense, suffocated the Rams.
“We hadn’t really faced a whole lot of that type of pressure all year long, and they’re so long,” Winslow said. “That’s what kills you.
“You think you can make the pass and they got 30-foot arms that stick out that just all the sudden, they hit it. We’re just not used to that. It’s tough to simulate that in practice when we got a bunch of alligator-arm kids, so they’re just really good at that and the length gave us trouble.”
Gossard added 16 points, with nine coming in the second half. Hayden Atkins also scored in double figures for the Wildcats with 12.
“Our offense has been pretty consistent throughout the year, but I think our defense gives our offense even more baskets than running just regular offensive plays,” Sullivan said. “I think we really wanted to work on that towards the end of the regular season and definitely coming into tournament play.”
Upper Sandusky’s Seth Frey scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. His opening bucket gave the Rams a 2-0 lead, and after Gossard’s three gave the Wildcat’s a 3-2 lead, Brad Roeder came back with a score for the Rams to regain the lead 4-3 with 6:30 left in the first quarter.
It was the last lead Upper Sandusky would have for the game.
Freshman Wes Vent scored in double figures as well for Upper Sandusky, with 11, and Roeder had nine points.
upper sandusky (12-12)
Clark 0-1–1, Clifford 3-0–7, Roeder 4-1–9, Miller 2-1–5, Vent 5-1–11, Frey 8-0–17, Mittemaier 2-0–6, Myers 0-0–0, Collins 0-0–0. TOTALS: 24-48 4-9–56.
lima bath (19-4)
Bishop 1-0–3, Atkins 6-0–12, Renner 3-0–7, C. Gossard 6-3–16, Sullivan 12-0–32, Clark 1-0–3, Burkholder 0-1–1, Jones 1-0–2, R. Gossard 0-0–0, Clark 0-0–0, Frazier 0-0–0. TOTALS: 30-57 4-6–76.
Upper Sandusky 14 11 12 19 — 56
Lima Bath 20 22 18 16 — 76
3-Point GOALS: Upper Sandusky 4-14 (Mittemaier 2, Clifford & Frey 1); Lima Bath 12-28 (Sullivan 8, Bishop, Renner, C. Gossard & Clark 1).
rebounds: Upper Sandusky 18 (Frey 11); Lima Bath 23 (C. Gossard 5).
turnovers: Upper Sandusky 18, Lima Bath 12.
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