Tommy Bell kept the regional trophy close.
Tri-Village waited more than two decades to be in this position again. The Patriots weren’t about to let the opportunity pass them by.
Friends, family and fans decked in red, white and blue left Trent Arena extremely happy Friday night — and making plans for next week. For the second time in program history, the Patriots are in Ohio’s final four in boys basketball.
Damion Cook scored a game-high 24 points, Tri-Village controlled the second half and the Patriots halted Marion Local 62-44 to earn a trip to Columbus for the Division IV state finals.
Bell, one of two seniors, held the Patriots’ trophy tightly after Tri-Village clinched its first regional final since 1991, and second in school history.
“It’s the second time in school history to go back. It’s just great. Words can’t explain right now,” Bell said.
There was a simple explanation to Tri-Village’s success. The Patriots simply played good basketball Friday night.
A slow-paced first quarter gave way to more offense, and by halftime Tri-Village owned a 26-25 advantage.
That lead swelled to seven at one point during the third quarter, before Marion Local made it a two-point game again heading into the fourth quarter.
Then, the Patriots really took charge.
Cook scored again, then Colton Linkous swished a 3-pointer. The Flyers hit one free throw, but the Patriots responded with four more points courtesy of cousins Damion and Tyler Cook.
A Linkous basket and two Tyler Cook free throws made it 53-41 with less than a minute to play. The final knockout punch came in the form of the 9-0 run Tri-Village used to close.
“It’s so special for us. We worked so hard to get here,” said Damion Cook, whose father, Scoob Cook, played on the Patriots’ 1991 state runner-up team.
“Going to Columbus is quite an accomplishment.”
Cook noted the Patriots had two days to scout Marion Local. Enough time to figure out a way to counteract a Flyer lineup that stood 6-10, 6-7 and 6-6.
“I knew if we just rebounded and made free throws the rest of the game, we were going to come out victorious, and we did,” said Tyler Cook who scored eight points and added several key rebounds down the stretch.
“Playing in AAU, and we play some athletic kids, 6-7, 6-8, throughout the year. They were a lot bigger than them, but we had to find a way to score on them, and I think we did very well with that tonight.”
Added Damion Cook: “We knew that they were tall and they were long. We just had to be even stronger.”
Linkous added 19 points and Van Winkle scored six for a Patriot squad that improved to 26-1.
Tri-Village coach Josh Sagester had hugs for his starting five as they left the floor late in the fourth quarter, the Patriots’ spot in Columbus secure.
“We put in a lot of hours,” Sagester said. “Our kids, our parents, our community. To get this reward is phenomenal.”
It appeared that much of the Tri-Village community in New Madison packed Trent Arena.
It was an appreciative crowd, too, as the Patriots celebrated with the trophy, took pictures and cut the net.
“There are a lot of communities, a lot of teams that talk about it, and it’s really just a pipe dream,” Sagester said. “Our kids, our community think that’s an expectation, and we know we can achieve it.
” … It’s a dream come true. It’s a phenomenal community. Not only am I the basketball coach, I’m the superintendent. We have a lot of good people, we have a lot of good kids. … To have everybody have a hand in this tonight, witness this, was phenomenal for our community.
Cole Griesdorn scored 13 points to lead Marion Local (22-6), while Adam Bertke added 11.
Tri-Village plays Convoy Crestview (27-0) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Schottenstein Center. The winner advances to play either Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas (17-11) or Canal Winchester Harvest Prep (26-1) at 1:30 p.m. March 22 for the state title.
“The crowd just got real loud,” Bell said of the closing moments of Friday’s final. “We just knew. We knew it was our time, our time to go.”