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UC tires Halls out; H’boldt showdown on tap for tonight

UC tires Halls out; H’boldt showdown on tap for tonight
UC tires Halls out; H’boldt showdown on tap for tonight

Union City’s Andre Coby drives in for a basket attempt during the Twisters’ 114-86 triumph Friday night over Halls.
Down by 11 with still three minutes to go in a fast-paced first half, Union City had Halls right where it wanted them. The No. 1-ranked Tornadoes took Halls’ best shot early, then essentially ran a thin and worn-out Tiger bunch out of the gymnasium in a 114-86 blowout victory Friday night in the District 14A semifinals at Dresden High School. The points total was the third-highest in the history of the storied UC program and came at exactly the same postseason juncture as when the locals scored a school-record 130 vs. Trenton last season. More importantly, the 29th straight victory for the Twisters this year earned them a spot in tonight’s district championship game against No. 2-ranked Humboldt. An added perk to the win is that it also secured a home game for the locals in the first round of regional tournament play later this week. Union City and H’boldt will do battle for a third time this season tonight at 6:30 after the Vikings rallied past Lake County 71-63 in Friday’s other semi. The Tornadoes own a pair of regular season triumphs over Humboldt, but are 0-3 against the Vikes in the postseason since the two joined the single-A ranks two years ago. UC, which had beaten Halls handily — by 27 and 40 points — in a pair of regular season meetings, saw the Tigers consistently shred its trademark fullcourt pressure for easy baskets to take a lead as big as 48-37 with 3:10 left before the intermission. The game’s frenzied end-to-end pace had gradually taken its toll on Halls, however, and the Tornadoes’ superior depth and continued relentless press ultimately swung things decisively in the favor of the Purple and Gold. An 18-4 flurry in the final three minutes before the half gave the Twisters a 55-52 lead at the break, and a 14-2 burst to open the third quarter — highlighted by the play of Tony Wilkins — essentially signaled the beginning of the end for the Tigers. “Fatigue and the numbers game,” Union City head coach Shane Sisco said afterward, when listing the two obvious factors in his team’s 16th victory of 20-or-more points this season. “We’ve had several occasions this year where teams have had success against our pressure for various lengths of time. But because of our depth, we’ve been able to wear them down. We’d been through it before. “We’d talked for three days about Halls beating our press off the dribble, and we still didn’t get to the right places a lot of the time. Once we did, we forced them into a world of turnovers and gave ourselves some easy opportunities on the offensive end.” UC, which consistently rotated a fresh five in from its deep and talented bench, ended up forcing a whopping 39 turnovers in all against a Tiger squad that became more fatigued by the minute in the second half. Wilkins, who had 12 of his game-high 31 points in a third period in which the Tornadoes held a 33-13 advantage, was electric in his best offensive showing of the season. He scored consistently and impressively from both the perimeter and the paint and was also part of a offensive rebounding onslaught by the locals that produced several second- and third-chance points. Three other players also scored in double-digits for the victors. Andre Coby showed flashes of his early-season form while totaling 22 markers, MJ Brown had 19 and 11 assists, while hard-working Pat Polk finished with 11 points and seven steals, and was a warrior inside. UC led only briefly in the early going of the first half before finishing the second period with a game-changing rally. B.J. Marshall’s 3-pointer started the comeback before Wilkins tallied three times. Brown hit from the field and then two foul shots before Cameron Callicott’s six-footer with 20 seconds left until the intermission put the Twisters on top for good. Brown’s pullup jumper made it 55-52 at the halfway mark. Wilkins converted a traditional 3-point play and also dropped a long-range bomb on the Tigers before then converting one of the many Halls’ floor mistakes into an easy deuce to cap Union City’s explosion coming out of the dressing room. Polk’s 3-pointer in the final minute of the quarter capped a run of 11 straight Tornado points and made it 88-63. Ryne Simpson’s layup off a pretty feed from Brown with 4:45 to play ended any lingering suspense and put UC at the century mark for the first time this season. Halls, which dropped the consolation game in the tournament on Saturday night to Lake County, 87-74, put four players in double figures, led by Rodney Foster’s 29 points. Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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