MONROE – The South Adams boys got rolling in the second quarter, ending the first half on a 13-0 scoring run that propelled the Starfires to a 77-61 win over host Adams Central in an ACAC semifinal matchup on Friday night.
In the second game of the evening, the Adams Central girls allowed South Adams to make just four shots from the floor – and just one in the second half – and defeated the Starfires 53-19.
The South Adams boys advance to play Bluffton in the conference tournament finals in Berne at 3 p.m. today. The Flying Jets girls will play Jay County in the Stardome at 7 p.m.
The Adams Central boys (7-6) took an early 9-4 lead over the Starfires (6-4) before South Adams junior Aidan Wanner and seniors James Arnold and Brayden Gilbert scored three straight baskets to go up 10-9. The game was tied at 16 at the end of the first quarter.
“Honestly in the first quarter, I think we missed four or five shots right around the basket,” South Adams coach Josh Hendrixson said. “It's tied at the end of one, and I honestly felt like we should have been up by about 10 points.”
And midway through the second quarter, the Starfires started converting some of those easy baskets, and a 28-25 deficit quickly became a 38-28 halftime lead. Once again, Arnold, Wanner, Gilbert and junior Trey Schoch – all key members of South Adams' state finalist football team – scored during that run, while all-state tight end Nick Miller scored two points, had three rebounds and a steal in the second quarter.
“We know as a team, we're a lot bigger, stronger and faster than they are,” Arnold said. “So we tried to use that to our advantage. When the shots aren't going in, get to the rim, get some defensive rebounds, control them defensively and use our athleticism to win the game.”
The Jets fought back to cut the Starfires' lead to 51-46 late in the third quarter, but Arnold hit a 3-pointer, his first and only 3 of the game, to go back up 54-46. As time expired in the third quarter, Arnold caught a pass, took a look to the basket and thought about taking a shot, but decided to pass the ball back to senior Drew Stutzman, who was right in front of the Starfires bench. Stutzman sank the 3-point shot to put South Adams up 57-46 heading into the final quarter. He then opened the fourth with another 3 to put his team up by 14.
Although Adams Central again cut the lead to six points, the Starfires went on another 13-0 run that ended the Jets' tournament hopes.
Arnold finished with 27 points, Wanner scored 14 and Miller and Schoch each finished with 11. Junior Braysen Yergler led the Jets with 16 points, and sophomore Ethan Poling scored 13.
In the second game, the Adams Central girls (11-7) put on their most dominant defensive performance of the season.
South Adams sophomore Peyton Pries hit a 3 early in the first quarter to cut Adams Central's lead to 5-3, and her team did not score again until junior Kristen Wynn hit a shot in the second quarter that made the score 21-5. The Jets led 33-11 at halftime and 40-14 after three quarters.
“Defensively, I loved it, obviously,” Adams Central coach Doug Curtis said. “Offensively, I thought we started a little rocky, trying to force the ball down inside. South Adams, give them credit, they were very physical at the beginning, we struggled a little bit with the passing and catching and being smooth. But some of our perimeter shooters stepped up, hit some perimeter shots. We got some transition layups, and then defensive I was happy the whole night.”
Senior Sage Hammond scored 14 points for the Jets, senior McKenna Dietsch scored 11 and junior Alivia Dalrymple scored 10 after hitting two 3-pointers early in the first quarter. Pries led the Starfires (6-9) with 10 points.
Curtis said the full-game defensive effort was a great development for a team that let Heritage back in the game after taking a large lead and that couldn't finish the previous meeting with Jay County, which ultimately beat the Jets 46-41 in December.
“We really got on them after Tuesday, because we had Heritage down I think 17, and they made some 3s and got all the way back to 3 or something, so we really got on them the last few days in practice about doing a better job defensively for the entire time,” Curtis said. “So I was really happy. Our (whole rotation) was hungry and kept the defensive intensity the whole time.”