MILLBURY — Rossford has four starters who can score big on any given day, but defense has been their calling card in the Division II district tournament.
Rossford’s zone defense clamped down on Toledo Central Catholic as the Bulldogs won a 48-34 district championship game at Lake High School’s Flyer Fieldhouse Saturday. It came on the heels of a 38-21 semifinal win over Wauseon Thursday. In two games against potentially high-scoring offense, the Bulldogs allowed 27.5 points per game.
For the first time in coach Brian Vorst’s 18 years coaching, the 21-4 Bulldogs are regional bound. The Bulldogs will take on Van Wert (18-7), 69-43 winners over Defiance (20-5) Saturday at Liberty-Benton High School. Central’s season ends at 20-5.
“It’s a huge step for our kids,” coach Vorst said. “We’ve talked all year about how we only play six guys, but we play six seniors, and these kids have been through the trenches.
“Our guys have played in competitively high-level AAU. They have prepared themselves for this moment and the moments coming for two years. So, it’s a big moment that our guys are ready for, and they are capable to handle.”
Senior guard Brenden Revels led the Bulldogs with 20 points and seven rebounds, making 5-of-14 shots from the field, but Revels was 10-for-10 from the free throw line.
Revels was mostly fouled in the backcourt during the final minutes of the game, but the important thing is he was able to hold off Central’s pressure, and he credited his teammates for doing the same.
“We really practiced on taking the ball strong,” Revels said. “We knew they were going to come out and pressure us, and we really lack a true point guard position, so we all as a team had to work together.”
Rossford’s Indiana State University-bound 6-foot-10 post Derek Vorst had a double-double 12 points, 10 rebounds and he blocked three shots, despite missing big stretches of the game when he got into foul trouble.
However, coach Vorst has one other secret weapon — a defense installed by assistant coach Kent Murphree, father of 6-4 senior sharpshooter Garette Murphree, who scored five points Saturday.
Kent gets his defense from his father Ron, once a successful coach at Crowley College in Oklahoma, where Kent was a standout player.
“We felt we were not capable of taking away their three-point game. Our focus was keeping the ball out of the paint, and I thought we did a really nice job of that tonight,” coach Vorst said.
“Coach Murphree is kind of our defensive guy, and he communicates a lot with his dad. His dad ran this defense when he was a (college) coach out in Oklahoma, and he ran into this defense against dudes that entered the NBA,” coach Vorst continued.
“He watches all our games and works through Kent to make adjustments for us. I’m very happy to have Kent because I get impatient, and I want to start doing stuff that we’re not good at. Fortunately, we have a really strong staff, and they do a great job.”
Revels said the Bulldogs had another advantage that helps the defense — scouting.
“That just comes from our coaches like coach Jon (Reitz) and they scout really well, so we kind had an idea what they were running when they called out the play and we were going over that in practice,” Revels said.
The Bulldog’s defense was so good, they held the Irish to one first quarter field goal in taking a 12-2 lead.
The Bulldogs held the Irish to four points in the third quarter and by the time the final horn sounded, Rossford had stops on 30 Central possessions.
The Irish finished shooting just 24% (13-for-55) from the field, including 5-for-34 from the arc. Central even struggled from the charity stripe, making three of six attempts.
Central coach Mike Floyd said it was a combination of Rossford’s defense and just poor shooting that doomed his team.
“It was probably a little bit of both,” Floyd said. “They did a really good job clogging the lane and trying to limit paint touches.
“Derek is so big down there and such a big presence. We haven’t played against a guy like that all year. It’s partly that, and we did have open looks, and we were making them on Thursday (win over Port Clinton), but we didn’t make them tonight.”
Even when Derek Vorst was missing big stretches because of foul trouble, the Irish weren’t converting.
“We were trying to get into the paint when he was out of the game, and it just wasn’t falling for us tonight,” Floyd said.
Coach Vorst credited that to the play of seniors Wes Ellison and Brandon Swope, who filled in for Vorst.
“I’m super proud of the way our guys played,” Vorst said. “When Derek got into foul trouble and had to come off the floor, our guys really pulled together and banded together.
“Guys like Brandon Swope and Wes Ellison were huge in those moments. Both of those guys had huge moments in this district tournament, and we don’t win either of these games without those guys.”
Revels added, “That’s just teamwork. We like really stress to our teammates that come in to step up when he comes out, so it helped a lot when we know we can have confidence when they do that.”
Meanwhile, Rossford did not shoot particularly well, either, making 14-of-36 shots (39%) from the floor, and just 2-of-11 from downtown (18%). The Builldogs did make 18-of-21 free throws, including 15-of-16 in the fourth quarter.
Behind Vorst, Revels, and senior Jake Morrison, the Bulldogs outrebounded the Irish, 36-26.
Morrison contributed seven points and nine rebounds and Ellison scored four points for the Bulldogs.
“Brenden Revels was rock solid tonight, and he was great from the free throw line. Jake controlled the ball and handled it well and I thought Derek did a great job of controlling the paint on the inside, for the most part,” coach Vorst said.
“We have guys like Garette out there that you have to account for at all times because he can certainly shoot, and he had a big three for us.”
Central sophomore guard Makhi Leach scored a team-high 12 points with seven rebounds, junior guard Isaiah Brenneman scored six points, and senior guard Michael Greenlee Jr. had five points and four boards.
Senior guard Ty-Waun Clark had three points and four rebounds, senior guards Noah Langford and Chico Johnson scored three points each, and senior guard Brian Bishop added two points for the Irish.