by Don DiFrancesco
CANTON, OHIO– In a matchup of top-seeded district champions, Cornerstone Christian Academy defeated Rittman 56-41 on Tuesday evening in the historic Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.
CCA stepped out to a 13-9 lead after one quarter with Michael Bothwell probing the Rittman zone defense for seven of his game-high 22 points. Rittman used some good outside shooting—five 3-pointers in the first half—to keep the score close throughout the early going.
Cornerstone Christian had the largest lead of the first half, 27-17, when Kendall Saunders scored on a layup with 2:30 to play in the second quarter. But Rittman closed out the half with a 3-pointer by William Swartz and a baseline jumper by Justin Flaisman to cut the halftime deficit to 27-22.
Flaisman, a 6-foot-10 senior, had an interesting “triple six” for the game: 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 blocked shots. Unfortunately, he received little help from his teammates in defending the rim. CCA was consistently able to get inside the Rittman zone for offensive rebounds, and boxed out effectively on the defensive end. The result: an astounding 43-20 rebounding advantage for the Patriots.
The third quarter featured Bothwell demonstrating his passing skills with assists on baskets by Saunders, Martel Farrell, and Jeremy Owens. But with just under a minute to play in the quarter, Bothwell put his own unique stamp on the game with a resounding breakaway dunk following a Rittman turnover.
Kaleb Bauman, who led Rittman in scoring with 16, nailed a putback as the third quarter buzzer sounded and the Indians were still in the ballgame trailing 40-30.
CCA turned on the jets in the fourth quarter. Following five consecutive layups—one each by all five players on the floor—the Patriots had a 50-33 lead with 4:00 to play. Rittman tried to keep the game alive by fouling as the clock ran down, but Cornerstone converted six of nine free throws in the fourth quarter and closed out a convincing 56-41 victory.
The CCA Patriots are now 19-7 and will play Mansfield St. Peter’s in the regional final Friday night at the Fieldhouse. St. Peter’s punched their ticket to the finals by defeating East Canton in the second game on Tuesday, 68-56. The Rittman Indians finished their season with a record of 21-5.
Cornerstone Christian 13 14 13 16 = 56
Rittman 9 13 8 11 = 41