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Lions to play for third straight sectional title

Mar. 1—SHARPSVILLE — The Liberty Christian freshmen appear to be maturing right before their coach's eyes.

Tywaine Fuller Jr. scored all 10 of his points — including seven straight — over the final 2:28, the Lions finished on a 13-0 run and overcame a six-point fourth-quarter deficit to overtake host Tri-Central with a 69-57 win in Friday's second Class 1A Sectional 55 semifinal.

Despite losing its top scorer to a leg injury in the third quarter, Daleville battled to the end before coming up on the short end of a 51-46 decision against Cowan in the first semifinal.

The Broncos season ended at 12-10 while the Blackhawks improved to 11-11 and will face the Lions in Saturday's championship game at 7:30 p.m. as Liberty Christian seeks its third straight sectional crown.

Before they could play for that title, the Lions needed to show poise against the Trojans (13-10), who seemed on the verge of knocking off the Lions before Fuller's late heroics.

"I'm super proud of my guys," LC coach Norman Anderson said. "They never put their heads down. They could have folded — they've never been in that situation before. Those guys fought, and that (win) was the result."

The winning burst came after former Alexandria player Trenton Patz scored to put Tri-Central up 57-56 with 2:42 left.

Fuller scored his first points on a wing jumper to put Liberty Christian (15-9) up for good at 58-57. He then collected a steal at midcourt and drove uncontested for a layup and a 60-57 lead.

After a Trojans' timeout, Fuller rebounded a Trojans miss, went coast-to-coast and was fouled for a three-point play, and the Lions suddenly had a six-point lead.

"I did. I had to make some plays there," Fuller said. "I just couldn't let my team down. I had to keep pushing. We had to keep pushing."

Jordan Haralson — who led the Lions with 15 points — followed with a free throw, and senior Devon Kelley sealed the game with a breakaway layup on a baseball pass from Kendrick Martin. Fuller capped the scoring by making three of four free throws over the final 38 seconds.

The Lions defense forced 20 Trojans turnovers, which offset the early 3-point shooting by Tri-Central that kept things close through three quarters.

"When we're not scoring, we can always fall back on our defense, and everybody can't say that," Anderson said. "We scored 20 points in the last five minutes, and again we rely on our defense, and it helped us out."

Martin finished with 14 points, and Jerramie Johnson added eight for the Lions, who had nine players score after 10 scored in Tuesday's win over Anderson Prep.

Drake Ramseyer of Tri-Central (13-10) led all players with 19 points while Newcom had 12, and Landon Grant added 11.

Senior Meryck Adams went down with a lower leg injury just one minute into the third quarter with his Broncos trialing by just four points.

Cowan quickly took advantage and reeled off six straight points to build its biggest lead at 34-24.

After a Broncos' timeout, Daleville scored nine straight of its own — including a pair of 3-point baskets by Noah Colvin — and pulled within one point.

But Adams did not return, and Daleville got no closer

Despite playing a near flawless first half — Daleville committed just one turnover — the Broncos trailed by one at halftime. Led by a dozen rebounds by 6-foot-10 Cole Duncan, the Blackhawks held a 23-12 edge on the glass in the first half, leading to numerous second-chance opportunities.

Daleville did take its biggest lead of the half at 17-15 as Koleman Newsome scored inside, capping a run of seven straight points. Cowan guards Mason Kidd and Timmy Watson countered with four straight points, and a Duncan free throw sent the Blackhawks to the locker room with a one-point advantage.

Watson led the Blackhawks with 16 points while Kidd and Griffin Smith scored 11 each, and Duncan had 10 points to go with his 17 rebounds and four blocks.

Newsome led the Broncos with 18 points while Colvin scored 17. Adams finished with eight points in his final game.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.