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The sectional final game between Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and Woodridge was one of those boys basketball battles that no one deserved to lose.
Second--seeded Woodridge made more plays in the final minutes to survive a thrilling 60-58 win before a packed home crowd in the Stow-Munroe Falls Division II sectional final March 3.
The win pushed Woodridge (22-1) to the Stow district semifinal May 9 against third seed Cleveland Central Catholic (15-8). Results from districts were not available at press time. The Stow district final was set for March 11.
It was a sectional final for the ages as fifth-seed CVCA (18-6) had a superb winter.
The Bulldogs elected to go up-tempo to try and break away from a close battle in the neighboring schools' second meeting this winter.
That move -- coupled with some incredible shooting by Woodridge guard Mason Lydic -- fueled the Bulldogs to a pivotal 9-2 spurt in the fourth quarter.
"We elected with about five minutes to go to go with our transition game, and we have some guys who like to run," said Woodridge head coach Ric Blevins.
"I don't think the 10-day layoff hurt us, as we have multi-year players and our energy level was great."
It was a Bulldog run that erased a four-point CVCA cushion to gain a 52-49 lead when Lydic buried a second straight three-point bomb with 3:58 left.
Lydic's NBA-range three-pointer was in front of the Bulldog student section as he turned and screamed to them. The gym erupted.
Then, Lydic threw a perfect full-length pass to senior point guard Preston Clark with 2:32 remaining.
"Mason can really play. I am not saying he's the top player in Northeast Ohio because there a lot of great ones, but he better mentioned in that group," said Blevins.
Coach Jay Peters had plenty to say about Lydic as well.
"It just came down to a great athlete [Lydic] making great plays and 3-point shots from deep with people hanging all over him on defense," Peters said.
CVCA continued to fight as senior point guard Elijah Turner, who had a remarkable game with 27 points and four triples, posted up and got a bucket to cut the Woodridge lead to 56-55 with 1:06 left.
Woodridge senior Marlon King then split the ensuing free throws with 49.6 seconds left. Clark grabbed the offensive rebound only to have Turner steal the ball back.
Royals senior Ryan Foguth scored on a put back layup to tie it 57-57 with 37 seconds left.
With 34.1 ticks left, Clark buried the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw and made the second to make it 59-57.
Foguth hit 1-2 free throws with 14.5 seconds to cut it to 59-58, but after Woodridge senior Zach Nelson hit a front-end charity toss, the Dogs were whistled for a lane violation and it was 60-58 with 8.1 seconds left.
Foguth's 3-pointer from the elbow bounced off the iron.
Bulldog senior center Aaron Jones secured the rebound and was fouled.
Woodridge identified the CVCA shooters and extended its defense, as Foguth was forced to put up a long shot attempt.
With 0.6 seconds left, Jones followed his initial missed free throw by missing on purpose. Elijah Payne's 80-foot baseball throw for the game winner was off.
"I have played in regional games that didn't feel like this atmosphere. It was a great job by both teams in a great game, and CVCA is so disciplined and fundamentally sound," said Blevins.
Peters echoed the feeling, saying, "This was a great basketball game to watch."
Lydic exploded for 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter. He had four treys, four rebounds and two steals.
Another factor in the second half was Clark, who thrived in the transition game, and had 13 of his 17 points in the second half. Clark dished out five assists.
Nelson had eight points for Woodridge while senior Sharif Howard and sophomore forward Elijah Arnett also sparked the Bulldogs along with Jones, who had four blocks in the second half before getting his fourth foul with 6:10 left.
"I though Elijah Arnett played some huge minutes and brought us something different off the bench he defended, and could guard on the perimeter because he is quick and agile," said Blevins.
Turner had a sensational game for CVCA, which had slim leads of 29-27 and 43-41, respectively, at the half and after three quarters. Peters called Turner's outing "great."
CVCA senior Steven Taylor put in nine points as did Payne of the bench.
Taylor's trey off a feed from Hudson Hall gave CVCA a 40-35 lead with 3:13 left in the third period. It was an 11-3 run that was answered by a quick 6-3 spurt by the hosts to head into the final 8:00 down by two, 43-41.
Foguth was hawked by Lydic the entire clash and had a solid floor game even though his scoring was held in check with seven points. Foguth added seven boards, four assists, two steals, and two blocks.
Chris Fair and Nate Stull are two other seniors that CVCA will miss.
"I told the seniors how proud I was and I have enjoyed watching them mature as most of them were camp as six-year olds, and I saw them grow from some skinny kids to a great group of young men," said Peters.
"Proud is not complete enough of a word to describe these seniors it was my pleasure to coach them and they carried on the tradition of unselfish basketball."