Big plays lift Rams in win over Lordstown

WARREN – In his team’s matchup with Lordstown, Mineral Ridge’s Zac Hagy got a couple of clips for his highlight reel during the waning seconds of the first half.

With 33 seconds remaining, the junior forward got behind the Red Devil defense on the fast break and dunked the ball. Following a Lordstown turnover, Hagy rebounded the ball near the foul line and put up a shot that went in before the buzzer sounded without looking at the net.

“They were both huge because it was coming down and we could never pull away,” Hagy said. “That put us up six and gave us a little momentum going into half. It was nice.”

These plays proved crucial, as the Red Devils never came any closer in the Rams’ 61-54 win in a Division IV sectional semifinal Tuesday night.

Mineral Ridge (15-8) took advantage of the offensive glass in the first half to take a six-point lead into the break.

Despite Lordstown (9-14) deploying a 2-3 zone, the Rams recorded 12 second-chance points in the half, making up 50 percent of their point total. Six of Hagy’s eight points in the half came off putback field goals.

“That’s one of the things that we try and emphasize is crashing the boards and getting second shots,” Mineral Ridge coach Chris Kohl said. “That makes the defense work harder, and that’s what we’re trying to do – wear the defense down.

“Any time you get second chance points are real big.”

The Red Devils came out of the zone and pressed in the second half, which allowed the Rams to push out to a 16-point lead late in the third quarter.

As has been the case for Lordstown, though, the Red Devils clawed back late, pulling to 55-46 at the 2:16 mark in the fourth quarter, but it turned out to be too late. Mineral Ridge managed to see out the rest of the game.

“I’ve been with (the guys) for two years now, and there’s never been a moment where they haven’t been committed to play 32 minutes,” Lordstown coach Brent Villella said. “Quite a few wins down the stretch, they had to come from double-digit deficits. We knew we could do it, but we were doing it against a very good opponent.”

Mineral Ridge now moves onto to the sectional final against Maplewood. Kohl said he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“Maplewood – a big game for us,” Kohl said. “We’ll see where we’re at.”