UL soars to district

URICHSVILLE – There was no major celebration for Union Local after Saturday afternoon’s Division III sectional game at Claymont High School.

It wasn’t because the outcome – a 47-29 victory against Sandy Valley – didn’t go the Jets’ way.

It was because the Jets – now 22-1 – have their sights set on the next game.

“The kids weren’t celebrating too much, and I think that’s because we’re aiming at bigger and better things,” said Union Local head coach Ben Porter. “We’re just continuing to take it one game at a time and our kids are making plays when we need them.”

Mother Nature willing, the Jets will return to the court Tuesday at Ohio University Eastern’s Health and Physical Education Center in the Eastern District semifinal against Buckeye 8 rival Martins Ferry. The Jets and Riders will meet in the nightcap with tip slated for 8 p.m.

The Jets swept the first two meetings with the Purple Riders, who advanced by winning the Meadowbrook sectional co-title on Friday night against Buckeye Trail.

“We know that’s going to be a battle (with Martins Ferry), Porter said. “Both games we’ve already played against them were very tough, so we don’t expect anything different.”

Before the Jets could officially begin to focus on the Riders, Sandy Valley stood in their way.

Though the Jets have been continual slow starters offensively this season, the one thing that’s not wavered has been their commitment to the defensive end of the floor.

That didn’t change against Sandy Valley, which found very few clean looks at the bucket. Union Local’s size and length altered and challenged nearly every shot the Cardinals attempted.

“More than anything, I think the thing I am most proud of from this game is what we did defensively,” Porter said. “We mixed it up, but we found their shooters and made it tough on them.”

The 3-point shot in basketball has become something a lot of teams rely on. The Jets are one of those teams and their ability to knock down shots from behind the line in the third quarter proved to be the ultimate difference.

Union Local, which owned a 13-6 lead after one and a 21-13 edge at half, watched Sandy Valley get within four midway through the third quarter.

The Jets got a bonus goal, on consecutive trips, from junior catalyst Kaleb McDiffitt and sophomore Trenton Tipton, which ignited the crowd and a spurt that the Cardinals were never able to recover from.

“The 3-point shot really can open a game up,” Porter said. “You hit a couple of consecutive threes and good things happen. That’s basically how it went for us in the third quarter.”

The Jets actually answered a Sandy Valley inside bucket with a Gavin Porter triple and eventually led, 33-21 after three quarters thanks to a late bucket by sophomore pivot David Paulick, who once again gave a huge lift off the pine.

Paulick got going early in the game, scoring 10 points and collecting eight rebounds in the first half alone.

“I thought David did some tremendous things,” Porter said. “He just works hard and gets on the boards. I was proud of how he played.”

The Stark County combine, which finishes at 8-16, didn’t get any closer than 13 in the fourth quarter.

“Our kids made plays,” Porter pointed out. “They stepped up and hit tough shots when we needed them. The kids deserve the credit.”

McDiffitt and Tipton both hit big shots, which helped ignite the Jets in the final chapter.

Tipton, who shined in the sectional opener against Coshocton, continued his fine shooting. He connected on a trio of treys and finished with 15 points.

“When Trenton gets his feet set, he’s a deadly shooter,” Porter said. “He did a good job of finding the open spot and the kids found him.”

Union Local held a slim, 31-29, edge on the boards. Paulick finished the double-double with 10 boards. Junior big man Colton McKivitz didn’t record a field goal, but he collected seven boards and erased four shots on the interior.

The Jets were charted for only five turnovers, which was four fewer than the Cardinals.

Scoring:

SANDY VALLEY (29) – Sheplic 3, 0-0 6; Lancaster 0, 0-0 0; Sommer 0, 0-0 0; Offenberger 2, 0-0 6; Brown 1, 0-0 2; C. Neisel 3, 1-2 7; A. Neisel 2, 0-0 4; Finn 2, 0-0 4; Totals: 13, 1-2 29. UNION LOCAL (47) – McDiffitt 2, 0-0 6; T. Tipton 5, 2-2 15; Dunfee 0, 0-0 0; Porter 4, 1-1 11; Paulick 5, 2-2 12; McKivitz 0, 3-5 3; Totals: 16, 8-10 47.

3-point goals: SV – Offenberger (2). UL – McDiffitt (2), T. Tipton (3), Porter (2).