COLUMBUS — In a battle of powerful offenses and defenses in the Division I state semifinals, defense proved to be the stronger side in a battle between Upper Arlington and Trotwood-Madison at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus on Friday night.
Upper Arlington (27-1), who had the best scoring defense of any qualifying team in Columbus at 38 points given up per game, held a high-powered Trotwood-Madison (25-3) outfit that averaged 87 a game to just 46 in a 74-49 rout.
The Golden Bears exploded in the late goings of the first quarter, rattling off 18 straight points after trailing 12-6 to start the contest. That run would swell to 26-4 spanning into the second quarter and Upper Arlington cruised to their 26th straight victory in their first state appearance since a three-year stretch from 1937-39.
Led by UNC-Asheville signee and first team All-Ohio performer Kevin Vannatta’s 25 points, the Golden Bears led by double digits nearly the entirety of the game, slicing through the Trotwood-Madison defense with precise passing and forcing 15 Ram turnovers
“We knew they (Trotwood-Madison) were going to pick up the pressure every opportunity,” said UA head coach Tim Casey. “Our guys did a good job making themselves available, catching, facing, looking … things you have to do against those guys. (Do that and) there are going to be opportunities at the end.”
Added Vannatta on the sizeable lead throughout the game: “To be honest, it was a little surprising. Every possession was a battle. To see we were up a fair amount was surprising, but we knew they could come back in a hurry.”
A bright spot for Trotwood-Madison came in first team All-Ohio performer Dazhonetae Bennett, who poured in 23 of his team’s 46 points in his final game in a Ram uniform. The 6-2 senior nearly outscored the rest of his team in the victory, shooting 9-of-21 from the field while the rest of the T-M squad mustered just 23 on 9-of-23 shooting.
6-6 senior Logan Richter, who averaged just six points per contest entering the semifinals, added 14 points for the Golden Bears, while senior guard Danny Hummer added 10 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.
Upper Arlington, having already won their first regional title since 1942, will face 25-2 Lakewood St. Edward for the Division I state title at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.