Thank you Brendan Fenney and the Star Beacon for outstanding coverage this past season!
CANTON — Mogadore put an end to Edgewood’s historic season during a Division III regional semifinal at Canton Fieldhouse on Wednesday.
The Wildcats won 69-65 and will advance to Saturday’s regional final against Lutheran East. The Warriors season end with a 24-2 record, an All-American Conference Blue Tier title and the program’s first district championship since 1991.
Edgewood coach John Bowler had a simple message for his team after the game.
“Twenty-four and two,” he said. “I kept reminding them we were 24-2 — that’s a hell of a season. That’s the most wins any Edgewood team has had. It’s the best team I’ve coached and they’ve got a lot to be proud of. They’re in the moment right now and I know they feel sad about it, but 24-2 is very, very good.”
The Warriors forced a number of missed shots in the first quarter and capitalized on the other end to jump out to an 18-6 lead. Lukas Swartz and Kyle Coffman pulled the Wildcats back in the game in the second quarter.
They combined for 19 of Mogadore’s 21 points and cut Edgewood’s lead down to three, 30-27, at halftime. Swartz made seven 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 31 points. Coffman connected on three triples in the game and scored 22.
“We’re a perimeter oriented team, we like to drive the ball from the perimeter, we were making shots and good things happened to us,” Mogadore coach Russ Swartz said. “And we were fortunate tonight. They carried us until we had some other guys start making some plays.”
Swartz and Coffman each added two more triples in the third quarter and Mogadore took its first lead of the game, 32-30, two minutes into the new half. The Warriors never allowed the Wildcats to pull away. They tied the game three more times and never trailed by more than five.
Edgewood retook the lead on a Hayden Kanicki 3-pointer to begin the fourth quarter and, after Swartz answered with a triple, Evan-Andre Rapose responded to give his team a 51-50 lead. Swartz connected on another 3-pointer to take control once more and Mogadore never trailed again.
The Warriors cut the deficit down to one possession several times in the final three minutes, but could not get over the hump. Mogadore gave them multiple chances, too.
Nathan Stephenson stepped to the foul line with a two-point Mogadore lead in the final minute and made 1 of 2. Aaron Morris pulled down an offensive rebound after the miss and drew a foul.
With a chance to make it a two-possession game, Morris missed the front end of a one-and-one and Aaron Anderson scored a quick layup to pull Edgewood within one, 66-65.
After a pair of Swartz free throws extended Mogadore’s lead to 68-65, Coffman worked his way to the foul line with 8.3 seconds remaining and a chance to ice the game. He missed both free throws, but captured his own rebound and took advantage of the second opportunity to seal a spot in the regional title game.
The Warriors surrendered 18 offensive rebounds in the game and missed 11 of their 18 free throws.
“We just didn’t make our foul shots,” Bowler said. “A couple times they just got too many offensive rebounds. Other than that, I thought we played real well. It just didn’t fall for us tonight.”
Jacob Zappitelli scored 12 points for Edgewood. Ricky Baldwin had 10 and Kanicki added nine.
Anderson finished with 29 points, eight assists and four steals. He scored 12 of his team’s 19 points in the fourth.
“Aaron played his butt off tonight, he didn’t want to lose,” Bowler said. “… He put us on his shoulders and, I’ll tell you what, he played outstanding. Outstanding.”
WHAT A RIDE
The high school careers of Anderson, Kanicki, Baldwin, Zappitelli, Sam Jerman and TJ Johnston ended with the loss. The group led Edgewood to two conference titles, a district championship and 78 wins.
Bowler said he will remember the class of 2019 for “the way they passed the ball (and) the unselfishness. We’ve had so many good times, so many good practices, so many good dinners we had together, ice cream together. I mean we did so much together, it’s just crazy.”
OVER THE HUMP
The Wildcats advanced beyond districts three times since 2012, including this year, but failed to win a game in the regional round.
On Saturday, they will compete for their first regional title since 1983, according to coach Swartz.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “The years that we were here, we thought that we had opportunities then. But this time of year, not only do you have to be good, but you have to be a little bit lucky and obviously we were, because (Edgewood is) a very good basketball team.”