SPRINGFIELD – Urbana advanced to the Division II boys basketball sectional final with a convincing 53-31 victory over Kenton Ridge on Tuesday.
The Hillclimbers controlled the boards from the first possession, using their size to create second chances and shut down the Cougars.
“I think rebounding is 90 percent effort, and I thought we had great effort on the glass tonight,” UHS Coach Jeremy Dixon said. “I thought Riley Emmons, in particular, was aggressive on the glass. Levi Boettcher had a good game on the boards.”
Urbana got off to a hot 10-0 run to begin the game, but the Cougars fought back and were surprisingly competitive, trailing 12-7 after a quarter and 23-17 at halftime.
“We gave up four threes in the first half and a couple of them were just standing there letting them shoot the ball. We felt like we played pretty well in the first half, but in a low-possession game like that, four threes is going to make a difference,” Dixon said. “Controlling the three-point shot and then the rebounding – that’s deflating when you miss a shot and still get the rebound and put it back in.”
Urbana did indeed beat up the Cougars in the third quarter, creating the separation that seemed lacking in the first half. The Hillclimbers’ zone frustrated the Kenton Ridge offense and the big guys down low continued to pound the ball inside.
“We’ve played a lot of zone this year. We’ve been a man-to-man team (in the past), but we thought it fit our personnel. It’s been a process, some good and some bad,” Dixon said. “It’s been good more often than not lately. We try to take away a team’s number one and number two options – not necessarily players, but the ways they score.”
The Hillclimbers pulled away with a 15-point outburst and led, 38-21, going to the fourth quarter.
A balanced attack pushed Urbana to the finish line, with Jace Underwood scoring 17 points. Emmons had 14 points, Kalen Howell scored 11 and Boettcher added 9.
“That’s been pretty typical. Jace has been our leading scorer, but I don’t think you can just key on him. We like to see that,” Dixon said.
Urbana will play either Tipp or Shawnee on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. for the sectional title at Springfield High School.