KETTERING — Early in the season, the Troy Christian boys basketball team had lost 72-46 to Russia.
On Tuesday night in a D-IV regional semifinal at Trent Arena, the Eagles found themselves within one point twice in the fourth quarter.
But, Russia would pull away for a 41-33 win and advance to Saturday’s D-IV regional final with Shelby County League rival Jackson Center.
Troy Christian closed the season at 23-4.
“We were 3-2 (after the first loss to Russia),” Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki said. “Then, we were 5-3 and we ended up 23-4. We had eight juniors on this team. They have set a new expectation level (for next season).”
While the Eagles trailed 15-5 after one quarter and 25-17 at halftime — with Russia’s Braylon Corodnnier hitting buzzer beaters to finish both quarters — things changed in the second half.
Troy Christian held Russia to two points in the third quarter and just five points in the second half.
The Eagles scored the final seven points of the third quarter.
Parker Penrod scored, Alex Free hits a 3-pointer and Christian Brussman hit two free throws to make it 27-24 with 3:53 remaining in the quarter.
Troy Christian elected to run the last three minutes of the quarter off — making it 27-24 going to the final eight minutes.
Free pulled the Eagles within one twice in the fourth quarter, the second time on a twisting layup with 6:00 to go.
But, then a pivotal play occurred when Russia’s Hayden Quinter had a four-point possession.
He scored and was fouled, After missing the free throw, the rebound went out of bounds off Troy Christian. Quinter scored again on the inbounds pass to make it 33-28 with 5:00 remaining.
“It happen three times in the game,” Zawadzki said. “They got a rebound in the first half and kicked it out for a 3-pointer (by Quinter), then they got a rebound and hit a shot at the buzzer (by Cordonnier) and then it happened again in the fourth quarter. Those were three pivotal plays.”
Two free throws by Brussman made it 33-30 with a 4:05 to play, but with Troy Christian having only one foul, Russia ran almost two and half minutes off the clock and forced them to start fouling.
“Our guys just don’t commit a lot of fouls,” Zawadzki said. “That was a tough situation to be in.”
Russia scored six straight on four Cordonnier free throws and a putback of a missed dunk by Brayden Monnin to put the game away as Frank Rupnik’s 3-pointer with 26 seconds to go was the only points Troy Christian would score the rest of the way.
“We just couldn’t quite get over the hump,” Zawadzki said. “But, that is tough to do against that team. They have a lot of weapons. I wasn’t surprised (with the way Troy Christian rallied in the second half).”
Rupnik had nine points and six rebounds and Free scored nine points.
Brussman added eight points.
Quinter led Russia with 17 points and Cordonnier added 15 points.
Troy Christian was 11 of 29 from the floor for 39 percent, including four of 12 on 3-pointers for 33 percent. The Eagles made seven of eight free throws for 88 percent.
Russia was 15 of 30 from the floor for 30 percent, including three of eight from long range for 38 percent. The Raiders converted eight of 12 free throws for 67 percent.
“We have been down here now,” Zawadzki said. “Now, we need to work in the off-season and see how much we can improve next year.”
After raising expectations to a new level.
Sports Editor Rob Kiser can be reached at [email protected]