URICHSVILLE - It had been more than 10 days since Union Local took the floor since its first and only loss of the campaign in the OVAC Championship Game.
And at times during Wednesday's Division III sectional opener at Claymont High School, the Jets showed signs of rust.
However, as the calendar prepares to turn to March, the Jets, who finished ranked third in the Associated Press Poll, could simply care less about style points. Most importantly to them and their large contingent of fans who made the trek to Tuscarawas County, the Jets finished with more points.
UNION LOCAL’S Kaleb McDiffitt makes a move to the bucket as Coshocton’s Nick Kirkpatrick defends during the first quarter of Wednesday’s Division III?sectional game at Claymont. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
Union Local earned a return trip to Claymont to take on Sandy Valley, which dispatched Bellaire in the nightcap, by virtue of a 51-37 victory against Coshocton.
"Not having played in more than 10 days had something to do it, but once the game starts, you have to settle in and play," said Jets' head coach Ben Porter. "At times, I thought we played well, but at other times, I thought we got careless with some things."
After grabbing a 15-11 lead in the first quarter, the Jets were basically never challenged. They did have trouble fully shaking a Redskins' squad, which concludes its season at 4-19.
Union Local owned an 11-point lead at halftime and stretched it to as many as 17 in the third quarter. However, Coshocton shaved it to 13 entering the final chapter.
"Everytime we got the lead up around 17 or 18, I think our kids got a little bit complacent," Porter said. "Our guys were trying to make plays, so I can't fault that, but we were probably trying to make too big of a play and got a little bit careless with the ball."
The lead swelled back to as many as 17 in the fourth at 46-29. Union Local didn't record its first field goal in the fourth quarter until there was just over three minutes to play. The Jets did knock down 10 charity tosses in the fourth.
"Coshocton is very fundamentally sound and I knew they'd play hard," Porter said. "They hurt us on the offensive boards at times. I think they wanted the ball more than we did a few times."
The Jets were led in the scoring column by talented sophomore Trenton Tipton. He was the lone UL player in double figures at 18.
Union Local welcomed the return of sophomore catalyst Kaleb McDiffitt to the starting lineup. He was starting for the first time since Feb. 6 when he re-aggravated a knee injury against Bellaire. He finished with nine points and appeared to have not lost a step.
"I thought Kaleb did pretty well," Porter said. "He may have gotten a little tired down the stretch, so we have to get his wind back."
Junior Gavin Porter added nine points. Sophomore David Paulick tallied eight and grabbed seven boards off the bench. Colton McKivitz scored seven and had 12 rebounds.
Coshocton was paced by junior Damon Miller's 15.
COSHOCTON (37) - Miller 5, 4-5 15; S. Magness 1, 0-1 2; Gray 1, 0-0 2; J. Magness 0, 0-0 0; Brown 1, 0-0 2; Mason 2, 4-4 8; Hilgenberg 1, 0-0 2; Roahrig 3, 0-0 6; Durham 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 14, 8-10 37. UNION LOCAL (51) - Porter 2, 4-4 9; McKivitz 1, 5-10 7; T. Tipton 6, 5-6 18; Dunfee 0, 0-0 0; Paulick 4, 0-0 8; C. Tipton 0, 0-0 0; McDiffitt 3, 1-2 9; Totals: 16, 15-22 51.
3-point goals: C - Miller. UL - Porter, McDiffitt (2), T. Tipton.
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com