As they have a number of times this season, the Kenton Wildcats found themselves facing a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter when they matched up with Tiffin Columbian on Tuesday night.
And as they have done a number of times, they rallied to make things interesting in the final quarter.
They were never able to gain the lead, however, as Columbian held on for a 60-57 win over the Wildcats.
Kenton drops to 4-10 on the season, while Columbian improves to 8-7.
Colyn Blackford had 16 points to lead the Wildcats, while Matt Bahr added 12, all in the second half. The Wildcats played without 6-foot, 5-inch post Grant Sherman, who missed the game for disciplinary reasons.
“It’s like the guys realize we finally have to start playing now,” Kenton coach Matt McCullough said of his team’s penchant for getting behind in games. “We’ve got to get that mentality where we come out from the get-go and play. We’ve got to understand we’re not good enough to flip a switch on and off. We’ve got to be consistent to beat any team on our schedule.”
The Tornadoes were paced by 6-6 center Derek Dryfuse, who had 23 points.
Trailing 46-34 entering the fourth quarter, the Wildcats opened the final eight minutes with a 9-0 run.
A steal and a basket by Bahr made it 46-38 and after a missed shot by the Tornadoes, Austin Phillips drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it 46-41. On the ensuing inbound play, a steal and a layup by Phillips pulled Kenton within three points with six minutes left in the game.
The Tornadoes responded with a 10-3 run of their own, extending their lead back to 56-46 on a basket by Dryfuse with three minutes left in the game.
The Wildcats weren’t finished yet.
Phillips split a pair of free throws and Justin Sawmiller added two more shots from the charity stripe to make it a seven-point game before a steal and a layup by Blackford pulled Kenton within 56-51 with 1:55 left.
After Alec Demith made two free throws for Columbian, a Sawmiller 3-pointer got Kenton within 58-54 and another steal and a layup by Blackford made it a 58-56 game with one minute left.
Kenton had two chances to tie or take the lead when Demith and Donavan Walker both missed a pair of free throws for the Tornadoes, but the Wildcats turned the ball over both times.
Walker and Phillips both traded free throws before Isiah Moore made one of two from the foul line for the Tornadoes with six seconds left in the game to make it 60-57.
A 3-point attempt by Sawmiller at the buzzer missed the rim.
“I felt we did a nice job of getting the ball inside the first three quarters and finishing,” Columbian coach Bill Beaston said. “For whatever reason in the fourth quarter – it wasn’t the lack of effort – but the decision-making wasn’t where it needed to be to make pressure. I didn’t think Kenton was doing anything flashy. They’re really strong and maybe that was a problem. I’m just happy to get out of here with a win.”
Early in the game the Wildcats struggled to get anything going inside against the size of the 6-6 Dryfuse and the 6-5 Moore as the Wildcat post players were unable to score any points in the first 16 minutes.
“They had some size inside, but our guys just have to do a better job of finishing around the basket and finishing through contact,” McCullough said. “We work on that every day in practice, we’ve just got to make sure we apply it to game settings.”
Trailing 10-4, late in the first quarter, the Wildcats got a 3-pointer from River Oates and a deuce from Travis Downing to pull within 10-9 after eight minutes.
A 3-pointer by Blackford tied the game at 14-14 with six minutes left in the first half.
After another Blackford bucket made it 18-18, the Tornadoes ended the first half with an 11-2 run, going ahead 25-18 on a Dryfuse basket and stretching the lead to 29-20 on a heave from just past halfcourt at the halftime buzzer by Walker.
Columbian pushed its lead to as many as 13 points several times in the third quarter including to 37-24 on a basket by Stone Simmons and 43-30 on basket by Jake Adams.
With both teams being in the same five-team sectional, there is a possibility they could match up again in tournament play in several weeks.
“We’re looking forward to tournament and that’s what we’re building toward, so if we see these guys down the road, the guys will be ready,” McCullough said. “We’ll be prepared and ready to go.”
Columbian won the junior varsity game 52-33. Kollin Stollar and Logan Nichols had 11 points each for Kenton.
The Wildcats travel to Bath on Friday.
Bushong 0-2 2, Travis Downing 2-0 4, Trevor Downing 0-2 2, Bahr 3-5 12, Sawmiller 2-2 7, Blackford 6-2 16, Oates 2-0 5, Phillips 3-2 9. Totals 18-15 57. 3-point goals: Bahr, Blackford 2, Oates, Phillips.
Tiffin Columbian (60)
Demith 0-7 7, Zirger 0-1 1, Flint 2-2 6, Walker 3-3 12, Adams 2-0 4, Dryfuse 11-1 23, Moore 3-1 7, Simmons 1-0 2. Totals 22-15 60. 3-point goals: Walker 3.
Score by quarters
TC 10 19 17 14 - 60
K 9 11 14 23 - 57
By KENDRICK JESIONOWSKI
Times staff writer