Damion Cook scores 17, uses last year’s state semifinal loss as motivation.
KETTERING — Tri-Village senior Damion Cook watched a highlight video online of last season’s state semifinal loss to Convoy Crestview on Friday. He wanted to motivate himself for his team’s Division IV regional final game against Marion Local at Trent Arena in Kettering on Friday night. The loss has lurked in the back of Cook’s mind for a year.
“I knew going into tonight that I couldn’t have that feeling again,” Cook said.
The motivation helped Cook prepare for a battle in the paint. Cook, a 6-4 forward, had to guard against Marion Local’s post players: Ryan Bruns (6-7) and Luke Knapke (6-10), a Toledo recruit.
Tri-Village overcame its size disadvantage and beat Marion Local 47-39. It’s the second-straight year the Patriots beat Marion Local in a regional final to earn a state berth.
Now Tri-Village (28-0) will try to do what it couldn’t a year ago: win the Div. IV title. The Patriots lost a four-point heartbreaker to Crestview last season. Crestview went on to win the state title with a lopsided win over St. Thomas Aquinas. Cook has not forgotten about it.
“We were so eager to get back (to Columbus),” Cook said. “Today I was watching reruns and highlights from that Crestview game in it definitely put a bad taste in my mouth.”
Mason McCabe, who scored ten big points for Tri-Village against Marion Local, also wanted a chance at redemption next week in Columbus.
“That feeling is still there and it left a bad taste in our mouth,” McCabe said. “We’re glad we get another chance to get back.”
They have another chance after pulling away from Marion Local on Friday. The Flyers built a 22-16 halftime lead, but Tri-Village scored the first 11 points in the third quarter and never looked back.
“We definitely had to control Knapke and Bruns in the second half,” Cook said. “We had to control the boards like men all night long.”
There is no love lost between the two squads. To add fuel to the fire, Tri-Village blitzed Marion Local 62-44 in last year’s regional final. The Flyers wanted redemption and looked to be on their way early on Friday.
Marion Local was able to work up a 9-6 lead after a quarter of play. Tri-Village was able to battle back and tie the score at 16-16 with 2:55 remaining in the half. Then in the last 1:15, Marion Local senior guard Dustin Rethman hit back-to-back three’s to propel the Flyers to a 22-16 lead halftime.
In the third period, the Tri-Village guard tandem of McCabe and Tyler VanWinkle took control of the tempo. The Patriots tied the score on a steal and layup by VanWinkle with 4:45 left in the period, then took its first lead since the first on a trey by McCabe with 1:20 remaining.
VanWinkle, a point guard, liked how he and McCabe controlled the perimeter in the second half.
“We have confidence in each other to hit the shot, and our defense locked up in the second half and our guards did a good job doubling down inside,.” VanWinkle said.
He also credited the efforts of Cook and fellow 6-4 forward Colton Linkous for guarding the Flyers’ two big men.
“They did a heck of a job being undersized and battling,” VanWinkle said.
The Patriots led 29-27 after three quarters following a 13-5 third quarter scoring advantage.
The Flyers scored only five points in the first thirteen and a half minutes of the second half. In the meantime Tri-Village scored 16 points.
The Patriots packed the middle and held Knapke and Bruns without field goals in the second half. The two combined for 14 points in the game. Marion Local could not consistently hit from the perimeter and made only two baskets in the second half.
Tri-Village head coach Josh Sagester was pleased with the second half his team put together.
“Our gameplan was to pack it in and pick your poison,” said Sagester. “We were able to spread them out and get some penetration and once we were able to go on a bit of a run I tried to shorten the game a little bit.”
Cook finished with 17 points and ten rebounds. Van Winkle added nine points.
Tri-Village advances to play Tuscarawas Central Catholic at 2:00 on Thursday afternoon at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. Central Catholic beat St. Thomas Aquinas in a regional final on Friday to advance.
No Marion Local player reached double digits. The Flyers (21-5) were led by Dustin Rethman, who scored nine points. They finished with a 21-5 overall record.