DAYTON — You might say practice made perfect for the Troy Christian boys basketball team — at least for a half Wednesday night at U.D. Arena in the D-IV boys district final.
The Eagles were well prepared for an athletic Riverview East Academy team and the players executed nearly to perfection in the first half to cruise to a 33-13 halftime lead in a 58-32 victory.
Troy Christian — 23-3 and district champions for the first time since 2014 — now advance to play 24-2 Russia in a regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Trent Arena. Riverview East finishes 24-2 on the season.
“This is only third district title in school history,” Troy Christian coach Rayz Zawadzki said. “My son put together a good scouting report.”
And the game was easy after practices this week.
“We did a lot of seven on five and nine on five in practice all week,” Troy Christian guard Parker Penrod said. “We talked all week about not being afraid — to attack their defense.”
Zawadzki was familiar with preparing for a team like Riverview East.
“When I was at Vandalia, we played Trotwood-Madison,” Zawadzki said. “And when I was at Tipp, we played Taft in the regionals one year. Really, the only way to prepare for teams like that is to play five on seven or five on nine in practice. There was one time in practice this week where made a layup — I stopped practice and said, ‘Do you realize you just scored on nine guys.’ And they didn’t, because they were so focused on what they were doing.”
And that execution continued on Wednesday night, playing against five guys.
Troy Christian scored the first 11 points of the game and the final 14 points of the first half to take a 33-13 lead and cruised from there.
In opening a 13-2 lead, Penrod scored scored five points and Alex Free and Frank Rupnik both scored four.
“We just came out on fire and just kept it going,” Penrod said.
The 14-0 run after Riverview East had closed to within 19-13 midway started the second quarter started with a 3-point play by Free —followed by 3-pointer by Penrod off an offensive rebound by Free.
Free would score off a steal by Rupnik, Rupnik and Christian Brusman would score and Penrod would make it 33-13 on a three-quarter court pass from Free.
“I measure my success on the success of the team,” Free, who is typical of the Troy Christian roster, said.
The Eagles missed just four shots in the first half, going 15 of 19 from the floor for 79 percent.
Penrod had 16 points on seven of eight shooting from the floor, hitting both his 3-point attempts.
Free was 4-for-4 from the floor, made his only free throw attempt, grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists.
The Eagles would outscore the Hawks 24-2 in the paint in the first half and 36-8 for the game.
“All our guys see the floor so well, because they are all soccer players,” Zawadzki said. “And they are so unselfish. We were able run Warrior, which is our base offense — against their defense.”
Free put a cap on his night early in the fourth quarter when he took a pass from Rupnik and threw down a two-hand slam.
“It felt great,” Free said. “When coach called the play, I told Parker (Penrod) I was going to slam it.”
Free finished the game with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and Penrod added 16 points and three assists.
Rupnik had 10 points, added to his single season school record for blocks with four more and had three assists.
Kyle Sebor had nine points — hitting three of four 3-point attempts and Brusman added six points and three steals.
Anthony Ware led Hawks with nine points, Te’Aon Artis scored seven points and Da’Montez Gooch added six points.
Isiah Harris had four assists.
Troy Christian was 24 of 39 from the floor for 62 percent, including five of nine from long range for 56 percent. The Eagles made five of nine free throws for 56 percent.
Riverview East hit 13 of 37 shots from the floor for 35 percent, including five of 12 from long range for 42 percent.
The Hawks converted their only free throw attempt.
“Going to the regionals feels great,” Penrod said. “We talked about getting down to U.D. Arena at the start of the season. And I am pretty sure everyone felt like I did — that we weren’t coming down here just to be here.”
And the Eagles practice made perfect —and gave them a trip to regionals for the third time in school history.
Sports Editor Rob Kiser can be reached at [email protected]