TOLEDO — The Elida players watched the tape of when Elida played in the regional tournament at the University of Toledo’s Savage Arena in 2012, the year the Bulldogs made the incredible run to the state finals, before losing to state-power Dayton Dunbar in a thriller, 54-52.
Thursday night, the 2016-17 edition of Elida returned to Savage Arena for a Division II regional semifinal game against Parma Heights Holy Name.
Elida’s performance Thursday night brought back memories of that incredible run in 2012, as it fought off a very strong Holy Name team down the stretch for a 64-54 victory.
This is the fifth all-time trip to regionals for Elida and second overall trip to the regional finals.
With the win, Elida (17-9) will take on Wauseon (25-1) in a regional final Saturday at 2 p.m. at Savage Arena. Wauseon soundly defeated Sandusky in Thursday’s first semifinal, 54-33.
Elida’s Daniel Unruh led all scorers with 31 points, including four 3-pointers. Unruh also pulled down seven rebounds and was 9-of-11 shooting from the free throw line. Isaac McAdams scored nine points. Skyler Smith scored eight points, including 6-of-6 from the charity stripe. Donte Johnson added eight points for the Bulldogs.
Unruh said the team realized the significance of playing at Savage Arena. He remembers watching two of the all-time great players in Elida history, back in 2012.
“We watched the film of Dakota (Mathias) and Reggie (McAdams), playing on this very court in the (regional) semis, and we envisioned ourselves doing the same thing – working hard to get back,” the junior Unruh said.
Longtime Elida coach Denny Thompson was estatic of his team’s effort on Thursday.
“The support and enthusiasm from the crowd was outstanding. The kids’ effort tonight was outstanding. We’ve had some success here before. It was a little reminiscent and had some parallels from 2012. I can’t be more excited,” he said.
However, the first few minutes of Thursday’s game didn’t quite go Elida’s way.
Holy Name jumped out to a 5-0 lead. However, Elida responded, going on an 8-0 run to pull out to an 8-5 advantage. Johnson and Unruh both hit 3-pointers to spark the Bulldogs. Unruh scored eight points in the first eight minutes of action to lead Elida to a 16-8 advantage by the first stop.
Holy Name (23-3) struggled, offensively, in the first quarter, making just 2-of-10 shots from the field.
The Bulldogs, behind the hot hand of Unruh (nine second-quarter points), led by as many as 11 points in the first half. Elida went into the halftime break with a 29-24 lead. Elida outrebounded Holy Name in the first half, 20-10.
In the second half, Holy Name continued to struggle at the offensive end, hitting just 8-of-27 shots from the field for 29 percent. For the game, Holy Name connected on just 31 percent of its field goal attempts.
However, the Green Wave cut the deficit to two points in the third quarter, after cutting it to three points on four occasions. The Bulldogs’ lead was 41-36 by the end of the third quarter.
In the final eight minutes of action, Elida staved off the Green Wave, hitting 14-of-22 from the free throw line. For the game, Elida was 22-of-31 from the stripe.
Holy Name’s 6-foot-10 center, Malique Burton (10 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks), fouled out with three minutes left to play in the game, opening the door for the Bulldogs.
Holy Name’s standout guard, Dwayne Cohill poured in 21 points and pulled down seven boards. Teammate Sean Hickey scored 15 points, including three treys.
“To tell you the truth, we weren’t really sure how this game would go,” Thompson said. “We had a plan to make it difficult for their two big players. And I think we did that tonight. We got enough effectiveness from the post, especially when the big guy was out; we tried to neutralized that.”
For the game, Elida shot 38 percent from the floor. The Bulldogs won the battle on the boards, 42-28.
Added Thompson, “Daniel (Unruh) can do that (take over the scoring). But, by far, it was not a one-man show. That was a heck of a team win.”
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0468.