Cadets hold on to beat Generals in district semi
BEVERLY — From the very beginning of the 2020-2021 basketball campaign Fort Frye head coach Eric Henniger and his staff have made a concerted effort to build team depth by substituting freely and keeping as many kids fresh and involved as possible.
That year-long strategy paid huge dividends Tuesday evening as the No.1-seeded Cadets held off a furious fourth quarter comeback bid by Ridgewood to score a 54-50 win in a Division III District Semi-Final at Fort Frye High School.
While Cadet seniors Nic Hart, Kelton Fogle and Luke Huffman played their usual key roles in the Cadet win, contributions off the bench from Casey Brooker, Dylan Hart and Garrett Lipot were just as important as the Cadets improved to 19-2 on the season.
“It was a physical game and a lot of fouls were being called and it’s nice to have a deep bench in a game like this,” said Henniger. “Our guys like Casey Brooker and Dylan Hart and Garrett Lipot they all stepped up huge for us.”
Fort Frye came out strong out of the gates when Fogle knocked down a pair of triples in the first two minutes of the game to stake his team to an early 7-1 lead.
The Cadets managed to add to that total and a bucket in the closing minute of the first period by sophomore Owen Brown gave them a 13-5 lead.
Fort Frye forced Ridgewood into nine first half turnovers while limiting them to just 14 points as they held onto a 17-14 lead at the break.
“Our defense played really well early on and that was a key to getting out to the lead,” said Henniger, whose team allowed Ridgewood single digit points in the first three quarters.
The Cadets got a strong third quarter from Nic Hart as the senior scored nine points as Fort Frye showed signs of being able to run away with the win.
A pair of Hart free throws with less than two minutes to play in the third gave the Fort their first double-digit lead of the game.
The Generals answered with back-to-back buckets by junior Dalton Patterson but Hart’s driving bucket in the closing minute pushed the Cadet lead to eight heading to the final period.
Fort Frye got buckets by Huffman and Lipot and a free throw from Braden Medley to take their biggest lead of the night at 35-22 with 6:37 to play before the Generals mounted their comeback bid.
Ridgewood out-pointed the Cadets by a 18-9 margin midway through the final quarter and pulled to within four at 44-40 with three minutes to play in the game.
Patterson scored 11 of his game-high 24 points in the final quarter of play.
A pair of freebies by Lipot pushed the lead to six and after Ridgewood answered with a Gabe Tingle free throw, the Cadets pushed their lead back to seven on a Brown lay-up off of a great pass from Fogle.
The Cadets were dealt what could have well been a devastating blow when Nic Hart was whistled for his fifth and final foul of the game on a controversial call on a three-point shot by Tingle.
Tingle came through in the clutch when he made all three free-throw attempts and then pulled his team to within two points when he drove strong to the basket with just over a minute to play.
A pair of freebies by Fogle pushed the lead back to four and after Medley drew a charge on the other end of the court the Cadets got another big bucket by Lipot off of an assist from Huffman.
Patterson came up big for the Generals with a triple with 30 seconds to play and after the Cadets missed a pair of free throws, Marcus Leindecker scored an inside basket and drew a foul to cut the lead to 52-50 with just over five ticks left on the clock.
Leindecker missed the and-one free throw and Lipot came up with the biggest rebound of the game for the Cadets.
Ridgewood quickly fouled the Cadet junior and he calmly canned both free throws at the other end to increase the lead to four.
The Generals quickly got the ball to Patterson but his three-pointer was off the mark and Fogle grabbed the rebound to secure the win for the Cadets.
“It’s tough to have to play without one of your best players like Nic (Hart) down the stretch like that but I thought our guys really stepped up after he went out,” said Henniger. “They started fouling early and our kids did a good job at the free throw line and Garrett (Lipot) stepped up and hit those ones at the very end to kind of put it out of reach.”
Patterson scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half to lead the Generals, who finished the season with an 18-8 mark while Tingle added 13.
Nic Hart led the Cadets with 14 points while also grabbing five rebounds and leading his team in assists and steals with six apiece.
Brown and Fogle both added 10 points while Lipot and Dylan Hart finished with eight and five respectively all coming in the second half.
The Cadets advance to the District Championship game Friday night which once again will be played at home against the No.2 seed Tuscarawas Valley.
“It’s huge to be able to play these games at home because that doesn’t happen ever,” said Henniger. “For us to get to play a district final on our home court is something these kids will remember for along time.”