Steubenville bows out in D-II regional

ATHENS — Steubenville’s group of nine seniors gave Big Red fans a memorable ride for four years.

That ride came to an end Wednesday evening inside Ohio University’s Convocation Center, as a slow start cost Big Red, ending its season with a 69-43 loss to Sheridan in the Division II, Athens Regional semifinal.

As much as the defeat stung, coach Mike Haney couldn’t help but be proud of what his senior group of Ryan Rauch, Jordan Wallace, Carlo Biasi, Jorian Jones, Josh Zimmerman, James Roundtree, Ethan Duggan, Nicco Bracone and Jacob Clevenger accomplished.

“We talked to the nine seniors and thanked them for all their hard work and dedication throughout the year,” Haney said. “You feel terrible right now, but in a couple days you look back at the season and all the success they brought. They made everybody that played for Big Red and coached at Big Red proud.”

Haney pointed out that the departing group is his largest group of seniors in his tenure at Steubenville.

“They mean everything,” Haney said. “We’ve never had that many guys since I’ve been here, as an assistant or the head coach, stick with the program for four years. Seven guys from the freshmen team (last Steubenville team to make the regional) stayed. My hats off to them for four years of dedication.

“They are good example for the young boys, not just the freshmen, but the ball boys and everybody else. They look up to them and try to emulate James or Josh or any of them.”

For Zimmerman, it was the closeness of the group that made the early ending so tough to take.

“We’ve been together for a long time,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve been a group since Harding (Middle School). It hurts for it to end so soon. We accomplished a lot this season.

“We had a lot of good moments this season. I’m going to cherish them forever. These four years(at Steubenville) mean a lot to me. I learned a lot being coached by Mike Haney. Steubenville did a lot for us as a group.”

Big Red, which drops the curtain at 19-6, got off to a sloppy start, allowing the Generals (21-5) to open up big leads early. Steubenville turned the ball over 10 times in the opening quarter, the first three of which turned into buckets for Sheridan and a 6-0 deficit.

“Sheridan is a great team and they were ready to go,” Haney said. “We usually have defensive pressure on people and they put it on us. We preach to take care of the ball and we had 18 turnovers in the first half. They probably got at least 20 points off of that in transition.”

After Calvin Bickerstaff made back-to-back buckets to make it 6-4, Sheridan went on a 14-0 run to open up a 20-4 lead after eight minutes.

“I think (some of it was nerves), but they should have had nerves, too,” Haney said. “They just settled in and were ready to go right from the start. Sometimes that happens. It’s a big arena, they are looking around and kind of awe-struck. You get here, you can’t do that. You see what happens when you do.”

“We got too much into the gym and stopped playing our game,” Zimmerman said. “We lost some focus. It was a good experience, but a very disappointing end to our season.”

Sheridan coach Doug Fisher knew the start would be key for his group.

“It was really important, this season as a team we’ve been a lot better when we start off like that than when we’ve had to come back,” he said. “We got a couple quick, live-ball turnovers and some buckets to get a quick lead. I’ve been asked several times if it was a big advantage for us playing our third game here and them having a long drive, but the court is still the same.”

I just thought our kids were ready to go.

“(Steubenville) just got off to a slow start and things snowballed in our favor. Our kids did a good job maintaining the lead.”

Big Red went on a 7-0 run in the second quarter to get back within 11, but after a Generals timeout slowed things down, Sheridan took advantage of more turnovers and scored the final 10 points of the half to take a 41-15 lead to the dressing rooms.

“In the second quarter we were down 18 and cut it to 11 and I said, ‘all right, let’s go! We’ve got something going,’ They got the ball and made a bucket, made a 3 and it was back up again,” Haney said. “They are too good to do that against. We talk about valuing the basketball, and we didn’t value the basketball.”

The Generals pushed the lead to 55-25 after three quarters, leaving little doubt about the outcome. For its part, though, Stuebenville played a strong fourth quarter with its largest offensive output, 18 points.

Ethan Heller, a Concord University commit, led everyone with 20 points for the Generals. Luken Hill had a double-double for Sheridan with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Big Red got a double-double from Jorian Jones, who finsihed his high school career with a 14-point, 13-rebound performance. Zimmeman was also in double figures with 12 points. Rauch finsihed with six points.

Sheridan plays New Philadelphia in Saturday’s regional final at 7 p.m. back inside the Convocation Center. The Quakers came from behind to defeat Zane Trace, 50-43, in the late game Wednesday.