COLUMBUS — The ability to control the tempo has Wauseon one win away from a state title.
A 42-35 win over Columbus Eastmoor Academy in the Division II state semifinal on Thursday morning put the Indians into Saturday's 10:45 a.m. finale against Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
"It's a great accomplishment to end my career in the state final," Wauseon's Carter Bzovi said. "I'm happy to go out with these teammates."
Bzovi made sure his senior season would be extended one more game, scoring six points in the fourth quarter to help Wauseon rally from a one-point deficit after three against the ultra-quick athletic Vikings.
Eastmoor closed out the third on 6-1 run with Wauseon's Austin Rotroff and Brooks Gype on the bench with three fouls to take a 25-24 lead.
"We fell behind in the districts and regionals," Bzovi said. "We've been there before when the other team took the lead. You've got to not be afraid to make a play. That was the key."
Two big hoops by Owen Newlove put the Indians in front early in the fourth quarter and Bzovi upped it to 30-27 on a bucket. A pair of Bzovi foul shots made it a five-point advantage but a Stanley Williams' hook shot and a pair of free throws by Taevion Kinsey pulled Eastmoor within 32-31.
"The momentum changed when we started attacking when they were in foul trouble, that was a boost for us," Kinsey explained. "But when they put him (Rotroff) back in it slipped our minds he was in foul trouble. We should have attacked more."
Instead it was Gype going hard to the basket on a spin move that turned into a three-point play with 2:05 left.
Kinsey trimmed the Wauseon edge to 35-33 on a rebound hoop before Rotroff was fouled after Newlove kept the possession alive with an offensive board.
An apparent two-shot opportunity at the line was ruled a one-and-one and the Wauseon big man missed. However, Gype was there for the rebound and putback and a 37-33 lead with 1:21 to go.
"I had to step up at the right time," Gype said. "Game-winning plays were needed and I was in the right spot at the right time. I had to step up for my team."
After a Kinsey miss, Bzovi all but iced the game with two free throws and 32 seconds later the once-beaten NWOAL champions were celebrating a school-record 27th victory.
"We wanted to push the ball more but we didn't create as many turnover opportunities as we normally would," Eastmoor coach Jim Miranda said. "That's a sound basketball team. They had the big kid for the outlet and we were too stagnant."
Rotroff had seven blocked shots despite battling foul trouble.
"I thought he had emphatic blocks and statement blocks," Wauseon coach Chad Burt said of the 6-9 junior, who also had seven rebounds. "That sets the tone better when you bring it strong and the big man swats it out of there."
Rotroff's presence inside helped the Indians to a 13-10 lead at half.
"A big factor was Rotroff," said Miranda, whose team finishes at 22-7. "He had a couple early blocked shots and the kids were not attacking the basket as much as they'd like. It forced us to move outside."
There the Vikings struggled, hitting just 15-of-47 field-goal attempts including but 1-of-10 triples.
"They were very good on help-side defense," Kinsey noted. "We could have gotten around their guards better but with help side and the big guy in the middle the guys shied away too much."
Getting Eastmoor on the perimeter was the game plan for Wauseon.
"We wanted to force perimeter shots," Burt explained about the Vikings, in particular Kinsey who finished with a team-high 15 points, one less than his season average. " As a whole we turned him into a jump shooter and kept them away from the rim with their athleticism.
"We've done a great job with our defensive game plan translating it to the game this season and we did that to a T today."
Gype scored 14 points and Bzovi 13 for Wauseon, with Newlove adding eight along with five rebounds for the Indians, which will be playing in the state championship game for the second time ever, the other in 1994 when Burt was a senior.
"Maybe it's more meaningful as a coach," Burt said. "As a player you're playing the basketball game you play as a kid. You don't know what you're doing until you leave town and the kids are lining the street.
"From a coaching side you realize the amount of people that have a say in this."
Now the Indians will attempt to win the first boys state basketball title in school history against an Akron SVSM team that avenged a 39-point regular-season loss to Trotwood-Madison with a 62-60 win in Thursday's second D-II semifinal.