Tri-Village’s boys basketball team would not be denied.
Not during the regular season. Not during the playoffs.
Coach Josh Sagester’s Patriots were perfect this season, claiming an undefeated state championship.
It was the culmination of a long path for the Patriots, and for Sagester. For 11 years he has churned out a consistent winner in New Madison, a team that was a perennial contender in the CCC, and in Division IV.
This year’s team went over the top, finishing 30-0 and winning the school’s first state title in dramatic fashion. Sagester is the Palladium-Item’s Coach of the Year for boys basketball.
It was a good year for coaches. Richmond’s Joe Luce guided the Red Devils to the program’s first semistate title in 23 years and was named Indiana Coach of the Year by American Family Insurance. Northeastern’s Brent Ross and Seton Catholic’s Josh Jurgens led their respective teams to sectional championship repeats.
Tri-Village was making its second consecutive trip to the state finals and third in program history.
“I’m still on Cloud Nine, to be honest,” Sagester said. “It’s kind of surreal. It hasn’t really set in, what we’ve done, and maybe it won’t for some time. It’s been a pretty good couple of weeks.”
It was a pretty good season.
Top-ranked for most of the year, the Patriots won sectional and district titles before overcoming the height advantage of Marion Local to win a second straight regional title at Trent Arena in Kettering.
“We won the sectional pretty business-like. District, same fashion,” Sagester said. “We had to play some pretty good basketball teams. Georgetown was really good. We’re a tough matchup for them. Marion Local, we’ve beaten them the last two years and it’s been a monumental task. … (Players who were) 6-10, 6-7, sitting in the stands, they don’t look that big. Get on the sidelines and it’s kind of holding on for dear life. The defensive post effort by (Colton) Linkous and (Damion) Cook that game was extraordinary.”
The Patriots were determined to return to Columbus, the site of their last defeat. They advanced to Ohio’s Final Four the year prior, falling in the state semifinal.
Not this time.
Tri-Village halted Tuscarawas Central Catholic 55-47 to reach the final, then went to war with Canal Winchester.
A 10-point Patriot lead at halftime turned into a tie ballgame as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Linkous, a senior who was determined to rewrite Tri-Village history, took the final shot, a fadeaway jumper with about a second to play.
Swish. 48-46 Tri-Village.
“I’m just extremely proud,” Sagester said. “Dealing with the expectations, obviously that’s not easy, playing under a microscope and getting everybody’s best punch every single night. We were kind of finishing the mission and getting back to Columbus. I don’t think you can ever predict it. Timely shots and some kids who have worked awful hard.”
Josh Chapin: (765) 973-4463 email@example.com or twitter.com/JoshChapinPI