DAYTON — As the celebration and net cutting went on after Miami East boys basketball team’s D-III district championship win over Mariemont took place on the floor at U.D. Arena Thursday night, the Vikings were very aware of what they had accomplished with a 53-49 win over the Warriors.
“It is the first one since 2009,” junior guard Jacob Roeth said. “And the first time we had been here since 2016. This feels great.”
East, 24-2, will play 22-3 Preble Shawnee a regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Trent Arena. Mariemont closes the season at 15-10.
And for those who refer to East as a two-headed monster, Viking coach Justin Roeth said nothing could be further from the truth.
“I just think that is a bad statement,” he said. “We play great defense. And I don’t think you can do that with two guys. We went through some growing pains last year and these guys have really come on. And there are other guys on the bench that can do the same thing. These just happened to be the guys we went with tonight.”
It became clear from the start that Mariemont had one thought on defense — keep Wes Enis from touching the ball.
“I did feel like I needed to step up,” Roeth, who finished with 25 points to lead all scorers said. “But, the rest of our guys have really learned a lot the last two years and stepped up tonight.”
East trailed 16-12 after one quarter and 22-19 at halftime.
And after consecutive 3-point plays by Roeth and an Enis basket off a dish by Devon Abshire gave the Vikings a brief 27-26 lead — East found themselves trailing 36-30 late in the third quarter.
But, the Vikings would outscore Mariemont 23-13 the rest of the way with Connor Apple, Abshire and Bryce Haught all making big plays.
Enis found Haught open under the basket to close the third quarter and the sophomore turned it into a 3-point play to get the Vikings within 36-33.
Mariemont’s Charlie Tully scored at the buzzer to make it 38-33, before East outpointed the Warriors 20-11 in the final eight minutes.
You could feel the momentum shifting in the fourth quarter with Enis and Roeth combining to bring the Vikings within 40-39.
Then, Apple hit his second 3-pointer of the game to electrify the Vikings crowd and put East up 42-40 with 4:05 remaining.
“It is the best I have felt shooting the ball,” Apple said. “It was an amazing feeling (to hit that shot).”
Justin Roeth called timeout after the shot.
“Our crowd was so loud,” he said. “You could feel the momentum changing.”
After Mariemont’s Will Stephens tied it, Abshire hit a baseline jumper to put East up 44-42.
“I work on the shot all the time and the team has confidence in me,” Abshire said.
Two free throws by Roeth made it 46-42 with 2:15 remaining, but Sam Stalzer hit a 3-pointer for Mariemont and Stephens hit two free throws to put the Warriors up 47-46 with 1:25 to go.
Then, Apple was fouled at the 1:06 mark.
He found nothing but net on the tying free throw and the second one seemed to hang on the rim for an eternity before falling in and giving East a 48-47 lead.
“I am not going to lie to you — I was nervous,” Apple said. “But, the second one somehow found a way to go in.”
It had Justin Roeth watching closely.
“I don’t get nervous when my players are shooting free throws,” he said. “But, it seemed like that ball was on the rim for 10 seconds.”
On Mariemont’s next possession a shot was off the mark and Abshire grabbed the rebound.
“Honestly, I was thinking just hold on to the ball,” Abshire said.
He got the ball to Roeth, who was fouled and calmly hit two free throws to make it 50-47 with 44.8 seconds to go.
On Mariemont’s next possession Enis grabbed the rebounds and was fouled with 18 seconds to go and hit both free throws to make it 52-47.
“Wes (Enis) didn’t have his typical game scoring (because of Mariemont’s defense),” Justin Roeth said. “But, he always finds ways to contribute. He made some big plays for us tonight.”
After Stephens scored to cut the East lead to 52-29, Jacob Roeth was fouled with 10.4 seconds to go.
Roeth, who was nine-for-10 from the line at the time — uncharacteristically missed the first free throw. But, the second attempt was a “Can of Corn” to make it 53-49 and seal the win and Enis hurled the ball in the air after a rebound as the clock ran out.
“I have shot so many free throws,” Jacob Roeth said. “The second free throw — it was just like all those times alone in the gym shooting free throws.”
Along with Roeth’s scoring, Enis had 12 points and six rebounds.
Apple had eight points and Abshire had five points.
Mitchel Kemp, Abshire and Haupt all grabbed four rebounds, while Enis, Apple, Roeth, Haught and Abshire had two assists each and Roeth had two steals. Camren Monnin also gave the Vikings valuable minutes.
“Everyone who played contributed,” Justin Roeth said.
Stephens had 14 points for Mariemont and Tim Stewart had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Tully had eight points, five rebounds and three assists and Sam Stalzer scored nine points.
Socko Stalzer also had three assists.
East was 16 of 35 from the floor for 46 percent, including three of 11 from long range for 27 percent. The Vikings made 18 of 21 free throws for 86 percent, including 11 of 12 in the final eight minutes.
“Free throws were a big part of this game,” Justin Roeth said.
Mariemont was 19 of 36 from the floor for 53 percent, including five of 13 on 3-pointers for 39 percent. The Warriors converted six of 10 free throws for 60 percent.
East won the battle of the boards 22-17, outrebounding Mariemont 15-7 in the second half.
The Vikings had eight turnovers to the Warriors nine.
“We had some growing pains last year, but we have come a long way,” Justin Roeth said.
Something, the whole team is very aware of.
You can reach Sports Editor Rob Kiser at [email protected]