Russia’s Gavin Hoying (23) goes up for dunk over Damon Harris.
DAYTON – The score was close. Then, just like that, it wasn’t.
Aiken and Russia played tight enough to go to overtime Thursday in their Division IV district championship game at University of Dayton Arena.
They still were tied, 54-54, with just more than two minutes left in the extra period before Russia suddenly erupted for a 10-0 run over a 1:08 span that practically sealed a 65-60 win.
Senior Jordan Gariety connected on a 3-pointer from the left wing to snap the tie. That was all Russia (22-4) needed, Falcons coach Leon Ellis said.
“They hit that 3-pointer and a couple of our guys hung their heads,” Ellis said. “We’ve got to do a better job of handling adversity down the stretch. We did a good job of handling adversity early in the game.”
Aiken (17-8), which lost to Russia in a district championship game last season, put together a 6-0 run to cut the Raiders’ lead to 64-60 and had two good looks at 3-pointers, but couldn’t get them to drop.
“We tried to give it away, but that’s what they do,” Russia coach Paul Bremigan said. “They’re so quick with their hands. They’re athletic, and they jump so well. They gave us problems.”
Junior point guard Carlik Jones led three Falcons in double figures with 18 points. Senior guard D.J. Harris added 17, 10 in the second half, and 6-foot-6 junior power forward Kameron Moore logged a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Junior center Elijah Gordon also reached double figures in rebounds with 10 while racking up four of Aiken’s 10 blocked shots.
Harris saw a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the left corner rim out at the buzzer ending regulation time.
The scored was tied 13 times and there were 10 lead changes.
Gariety finished with 11 points for the Raiders, while 6-6 senior Gavin Hoying led both teams with 24. Russia made five of its seven shots from the field in the overtime, while Aiken was 4-of-11.
The loss was Aiken’s third in the last four seasons at the district title level.
“Three years ago, we had Dunbar down by 17 and lost a close one there, too,” Ellis recalled, adding with a stab at gallows humor, “The worst part about this one is I’ve got 99 wins. This would’ve been my 100th.”
Aiken led just once in the first half, 15-14 on an Eddie Brown-Hogan floater with 7:12 remaining in the second quarter. The Raiders led by as many as five points three times in the first quarter and by four twice in the second before Jones sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut Aiken’s halftime deficit to 28-27.
Jones, who was averaging 16.9 points per game, according to the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference website, finished the first half with 16, sinking 6-of-8 shots from the field, including both of his 3-pointers.
“We did a great job on Jones in the second half,” Bremigan said. “We told our kids before the game, ‘Don’t let him go off and score 25,’ and he scores 16 in the first half. We were worried.”
The third quarter alone featured six ties and six lead changes before Moore scored on a putback at the buzzer for a 43-43 tie.
Aiken (17-8) – Jones 7 2 18, Horne 1 1 3, Harris 6 2 17, Moore 5 0 10, Gordon 3 2 8, Brown-Hogan 1 0 2, Griffin 1 0 2. Totals: 24 7 60.
Russia (22-4) – Gariety 4 0 11, Francis 4 0 9, G. Hoying 8 7 24, A. Hoying 4 0 8, Cordonnier 1 0 3, York 3 0 6, Pleiman 1 0 4. Totals: 25 9 65.
Halftime: Russia, 28-27. 3-pointers: A 5 (Harris 3, Jones 2), R 6 (Gariety 3, Francis, G. Hoying, Cordonnier).