CINCINNATI — Blanchester’s dream season ran into a 6-foot, 9-inch nightmare Saturday night.
Fenwick junior AJ Braun dominated on both ends of the floor as the 10-seeded Falcons pulled away to defeat the six-seeded Blanchester Wildcats, 68-49, in a Division II Sectional matchup at Princeton High School.
With the win, Fenwick (13-10) advanced to play Ross 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in a sectional semifinal at Princeton High School.
Blanchester’s school record season ended at 21-2.
Braun hit shots from both the inside and outside. He keyed a 14-2 run that began on the final shot of the first half. It turned a five-point game into a 50-33 Fenwick lead with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
On the defensive end, Braun was an eraser. Blanchester struggled to score inside unless it was a layup off of a fast break. Braun had seven blocks and altered several more Wildcat attempts.
The junior led the Falcons with 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. He was one of three Fenwick players in double figures, as Dan Luers added 17 and Will Richards scored 11.
Fenwick poured in shots from beyond the arc, making 10 of 19 from three-point range. Even Braun knocked down 3 of his 4 attempts from long range. Blanchester made just 1 of 10 from three.
“We scouted them, and we did not project them to shoot 50 percent from three,” BHS head coach Adam Weber said. “We probably could have contested a few of them a little better. At the end of the day, they played a solid game.”
Brayden Sipple and Tanner Creager handed most of the scoring for Blanchester. Sipple finished with 28 points and nine rebounds, while Creager wrapped up his high school career with 15 points and five assists before fouling out in the fourth.
“Creager has been clutch,” Weber said. “He’s been a game-saver. You talk about guys who are game-winners. He’s a game-saver. Same thing here – he kept us going. It’s a shame he didn’t get to play the final minutes, but I’m really proud of him this year.”
The two combined to take 34 of Blanchester’s 46 shots, and score 43 of the team’s 49 points.
Sipple’s 28 points completed an outstanding junior campaign. He passed University of Cincinnati guard and Wilmington grad Jaevin Cumberland for fourth on the all-time Clinton County scoring list, regardless of gender.
Entering his senior year, Sipple has 1,863 points. He enters the offseason 137 points shy of 2,000, and 170 points behind Seton Hall guard and Wilmington grad Mya Jackson for third. He will need 546 points to be Clinton County’s all-time leading scorer, a title currently held by Jarron Cumberland.
It was a disappointing end for the SBAAC National Division co-champions. The combination of a move up to Division II, plus a matchup against a GCL Coed battle-tested Fenwick team proved too much to overcome.
“The jump to D2 after all the years in D3 didn’t really do us any favors,” Weber said. “Those last few games against Hillsboro and New Richmond were helpful. Fenwick jumped on us because of that same belief — that conference play might not have been the same conference play they see on a night-to-night basis.
“It showed tonight. They were more battle-tested, and their conference is an absolute physical nightmare. It definitely helped them.”
It was the final game for six Blanchester seniors, five of which joined Sipple in the team’s regular rotation. Creager, Braden Roy, Carter Abbott, Jacksson Waialae, Jay Ashcraft and Hunter Bare wrapped up an outstanding senior campaign.
“They have been the best group of teammates I’ve ever coached,” Weber said. “The talent part was huge, but just the chemistry together and unselfishness, the willingness to accept your role. No team that I’ve coached has fully immersed in it like these guys have. I’m just really proud of this group.”
Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020
Division II Sectional Tournament
Fenwick 68, Blanchester 49
(49) BLANCHESTER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Hunter Bare 2-0-0-4, Brayden Sipple 9-0-10-28, Tanner Creager 5-1-4-15, Braden Roy 1-0-0-2. TOTALS 17-1-14-49.
(68) FENWICK (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Will Richards 4-2-1-11, Carter Earls 1-0-1-3, AJ Braun 11-3-2-27, Dan Luers 7-3-0-17, Jordan Rucker 1-0-0-2, Terry Ferrell 3-2-0-8. TOTALS 27-10-4-68.
FIELD GOALS: B 17/46 (Sipple 9/23, Creager 5/11); F 27/58 (Braun 11/18, Luers 7/19, Richards 4/7)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: B 1/10 (Creager 1/4); F 10/19 (Braun 3/4, Luers 3/7, Richards 2/4, Ferrell 2/3)
FREE THROWS: B 14/19 (Sipple 10/12, Creager 4/5); F 4/9
REBOUNDS: B 31 (Sipple 9, Bare 6, Roy 6); F 35 (Braun 13, Richards 6, Earls 5)
ASSISTS: B 10 (Creager 5); F 18 (Luers 6, Richards 3, Earls 3, Rucker 3)
STEALS: B 7; F 6
BLOCKED SHOTS: B 4 (Sipple 2); F 9 (Braun 7)
TURNOVERS: B 13; F 10