By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
DAYTON — Allen Mack has seen teams put on defensive pressure similar to what Cincinnati Roger Bacon slapped on his Miami East boys basketball team Wednesday night in the Division III district championship game at the University of Dayton Arena.
Most of them go on to win state championships.
And while it’s certainly too early to anoint the Spartans a state championship just yet, based on their 58-37 victory over the Vikings, one has to figure Roger Bacon — which won its fifth district championship in a row Wednesday — certainly will be in the mix.
“Probably the last time we were down here,” Mack said when asked the last time one of his teams had faced a defense comparable to Roger Bacon’s non-stop attack. “We’ve faced some pretty good defensive teams — and no disrespect to any of the teams we’ve played this year — but Roger Bacon is the best team we’ve faced since we lost to (Cincinnati) Summit (Country Day) in 2012.”
That Summit team that knocked off the Vikings in the 2012 district title game would go on to win a state championship. Roger Bacon — which has reached the regional finals twice in the past five years, falling once to state champion Summit Country Day and once to state runner-up Versailles — has similar aspirations.
And if the Spartans can reach that goal, they’ll do it with defense. Roger Bacon — which never trailed after Miami East took a 2-0 lead early in the game — forced 20 Miami East turnovers and outscored the Vikings 26-2 in points off turnovers.
“It’s our system,” Roger Bacon coach Brian Neal said. “That’s what we do. It’s been very good to us. That’s why we keep playing in this (district final) game year after year. It’s why we’ve won it five years in a row. If you come to one of our practices, you’d see it’s what we spend 75 percent of our time working on, is our defense.”
As impressive as the Spartans’ defense was, however, Miami East played some pretty impressive defense of its own Wednesday and was able to keep the game close until late in the third quarter when Roger Bacon was able to turn up the pressure and blow the game open.
With 2:42 left to play in the third quarter, East would close the gap to seven, 30-23, when A.J. Hickman hit a 3-pointer and Damien Mackesy hit a shot in the lane. Hickman led the Vikings with 12 points — all in the second half — and Mackesy added 11.
That would be as close as the Vikings would get the rest of the night, however, as the Spartans’ Trey McBride answered with a 3-pointer and Roger Bacon’s defense forced turnovers on consecutive Miami East possessions to fuel a 10-2 run. Carlas Jackson led the Spartans with 15 points, while Dahmere Epperson 10 and Austin Frentsos came off the bench with 11 points.
“We were able to get it close a couple of times, but then a variety of things happened to us,” Mack said. “We gave up way too many points off turnovers and drives to the basket. In the first half we were able to control them; in the second half they were able to drive to the basket. We had some kids play a lot of minutes. They were able to rotate in a lot of guys. They are deep and they keep coming at you. They keep attacking you.”
After Roger Bacon was able to push the lead back to double-digits late in the third quarter, the Spartans were able to keep it that way the rest of the game.
While East’s loss was frustrating, the future looks bright and Wednesday’s game should provide the Vikings with valuable experience moving forward. Miami East close the season with seven wins in a row before falling to Bacon and with seven sophomores, four juniors and only one senior — guard Franco Villella — on the roster, the future certainly looks bright.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys,” Mack said. “We’ve taken some teams into battle against teams like this — but most of them had more experience than this team. I’m really proud of the way our guys played, with only one senior — who gave a tremendous effort — seven sophomores and four juniors.
“That’s what we told the kids after the game. They were able to have these experiences and see the work and commitment it will take to get back to this level again next season. We are going to have to battle to get back here.”
Miami East — 37
Franco Villella 0-0-0, Damien Mackesy 5-1-11, Conner Hellyer 2-0-5, Nick Beard 2-1-5, A.J. Hickman 5-0-12, Devyn Carson 0-0-0, Ricky Werling 0-0-0, Braxton Donaldson 2-0-4, Ryan Haney 0-0-0, Brandon Mack 0-0-0, Grant McCallister 0-0-0. Totals: 16-2-37.
Roger Bacon — 58
Reggie Williams 1-0-2, Wesley Higgs 1-1-3, Cody Niesen 1-2-5, Dahmere Epperson 5-0-10, Carlas Jackson 6-2-15, Austin Fentsos 5-1-11, William Greene 0-0-0, Trey McBride 3-0-7, Fred Moore 2-6-8. Totals: 24-7-58.
Score by Quarters
Miami East 2 14 28 37
Roger Bacon 8 24 40 58
3-point goals: Miami East — Hellyer, Hickman 2. Roger Bacon — Niesen, Jackson, McBride
Contact David Fong at (937) 440-5228 or email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong