By TED RADICK
Pardon Tiffin Calvert sophomore Garrett Spaun for his enthusiasm.
“Seneca Nation, this is for you,” Spaun said Friday after Calvert defeated Arlington 53-36 in a Division IV district final at Findlay High School.
Calvert, now 19-6, won its first district title since the 2004-05 season and advanced to regional play at Bowling Green State University. The Senecas will play Parkway (18-7), a 41-31 winner over Marion Local at the Wapakoneta district, at 8 p.m. Tuesday at BGSU’s Stroh Center.
Arlington’s season ended at 21-5.
Spaun had 16 points and six rebounds, and guided Calvert’s offense through and past Arlington’s full-court, pressing, trapping defense.
What may have impressed Calvert coach Jon Otterbacher the most was the way Spaun and his fellow guard defended the 3-point line.
Arlington made 238 3-point shots as a team in the regular season, but the Red Devils were ice cold on Friday.
Arlington was 0 of 13 from long range in the first half and 5 of 23 from behind the arc in the game.
“That was the tale,” Arlington coach Jason Vermillion said. “That’s what we do, and it was a most inopportune time for us to be 0-for in the first half.”
Otterbacher wanted pressure on Arlington’s shooters, and he got it.
“We wanted to be out as hard as we could on those 3-pointers,” Otterbacher said. “We knew we would give up drives, because we were taking away their 3s as much as we could, but we didn’t want to give them easy, comfort 3s.
“They had a couple of them early in the third quarter to get back in it, but our boys bought into our physical, man defense. We didn’t give them an inch, everything they got they had to work hard for.”
Calvert took an 18-11 lead into halftime and got a basket from Nick Seifert to open the third quarter. Arlington came back, just as Calvert’s players thought they would.
“We knew we had to get out on their shooters and force them to try and drive around us, and I think we did a good job of doing that,” Spaun said.
“Coach told us that they shoot a lot, so he said they were going to make a few. We just had to keep contesting them, and not get flustered if they made a couple.”
Arlington’s Bryce Gast, who led the Red Devils with 15 points and seven rebounds, scored on a short jumper and a layup. Zavier Thornton finally hit Arlington’s first 3-pointer midway through the third quarter to bring his team within 24-18, but Calvert put the hammer down after that.
The Senecas broke Arlington’s press and traps repeatedly, and Seifert (10 point, team-best seven rebounds) and fellow forward Nolan Beeker (game-high 17 points, five rebounds) were the beneficiaries as Calvert slowly pulled away.
“I was really focused on rebounding and doing all that dirty work,” Seifert said. “If our guys were going to have mismatches on the other guards driving the open lanes, I was going to get all the rebounds and put them back up for them.”
It left Vermillion impressed with Calvert’s work on both ends of the court.
“Tiffin Calvert did a great job tonight of passing the basketball against our stuff,” he said. “They were just smart.
“Every time we needed to have a next rotation, they made us pay for not being there. They got some easy scores because of that.”
Spaun hit a buzzer-beater from the elbow as time ran out in the third quarter to give Calvert a 35-21 lead.
“They had a nice plan, and they did a nice job of executing it,” Vermillion said. “They put us on our heels right from the start.
“We didn’t get those extra passes that we normally get, and they were just physical enough to knock us off balance or they were so close to us that we were rushing.”
Otterbacher said his squad had to weather the storm as Arlington briefly rallied in the third quarter.
“We knew they’d hit some 3s, we knew they’d have a run,” he said. “I think we did a decent job on the press break of getting through a couple traps and finding someone on the backside blocks for easy layups.
“We took care of the ball tonight. Garrett did a nice job of controlling the flow of the game tonight, even when they went to a hard deny on him and Seifert.”
A raucous locker room greeted Otterbacher after the game. He remembers the Senecas’ last district title.
“This is my third year here, actually in my third stint,” he said. “I was an assistant a couple of times and I was on the bench for that 2005 team as the freshman coach. I learned a lot from the coaches who came before me about hard work.”
“It’s an absolute honor to win a district championship for Tiffin Calvert, because it’s been so long,” Seifert said. “It’s the first one in 15 years. There’s just absolutely no feeling like it”
Tiffin Calvert (19-6)
Spaun 5-13 5-8 16, Nielsen 2-4 0-0 4, Shultz 2-3 0-0 4, Beeker 6-12 5-6 17, Seifert 5-9 0-1 10, B. Ronski 0-3 0-0 0, Q, Ronski 1-2 0-0 2. TOTALS: 21-46 10-15 — 53.
Vermillion 2-11 1-2 6, Thornton 3-10 0-0 9, Webb 1-3 0-0 3, Gast 6-16 3-4 15, Speyer 0-0 3-4 3, Lafferty 0-2 0-0 0. TOTALS: 12-40 7-10 — 36.
Calvert 13 5 18 17 — 53
Arlington 5 6 10 15 — 36
3-Point GOALS: Tiffin Calvert 1-5 (Spaun 1-2, B Ronksi 0-2, Nielsen 0-1); Arlington 5-23 (Thornton 3-9, Webb 1-3, Vermillion 1-6, Gast 0-7).
rebounds: Tiffin Calvert 27 (Seifert 7); Arlington 26 (Gast 7).
turnovers: Tiffin Calvert 6; Arlington 9.