ELYRIA — If Lorain coach John Rositano had any questions about how his team would respond to pressure, he got his answer in the Titans’ 73-64 Division I district semifinal win over Midview on Wednesday at Elyria Catholic High School.
After leading by as many as 11 points in the first half, Lorain watched as Midview senior shooting guard Vince Birth shot his team back into the game. Birth hit two of his five 3-pointers in a 14-4 Midview run that closed the first half and opened the second.
Birth’s triple from the right wing tied the game at 36 with 5:51 left in the third quarter, but the Titans (19-5) rallied to pull away.
Junior Devone Grant scored six of his game-high 31 points in a 10-0 Lorain run that pushed its lead back to double figures at 46-36.
Lorain led 50-42 heading into the final quarter, but the Middies (14-11) had one last run left.
Jordan Jackson’s layup gave Lorain a 56-47 lead at the 5:20 mark of the final period, but Midview used a 7-2 run, capped by Birth’s fifth 3-pointer, to pull within 58-54 with 2:53 left.
Lorain closed it out from the line, connecting on 11 of 11free throws in the final 2:33.
Junior Taevon Pierre-Louis scored 25 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to back Grant.
“Those are two of the premier players in Ohio as juniors,” Rositano said. “They’ve played a lot of basketball on the AAU circuit, big-time basketball, and they’ve seen everything. I thought they got roughed up a little bit tonight but they kept their composure and played the way we needed them to play.”
Midview shot the ball well, hitting 25 of 53 shots from the floor, but it turned the ball over 20 times against the Titans’ pressure defense.
“We knew we could give them all they could handle,” Middies coach Jim Brabenec said. “Our guys believed in the locker room and we just wanted to come in and compete and battle for four quarters and see if we could get a shot at the end.
“I thought we battled. We played hard and gave ourselves a shot in the second half. They just made a few more plays than we did.”
Birth paced the Middies with 21 points.
Brabenec liked how his team responded after falling behind early.
“You just have to weather their storm,” he said. “You know they are going to go on some runs, you just have to hope you can answer their runs with some runs of your own. We did that the whole game until they went on that last run in the fourth quarter.
“We just ran out of time to make another one.”
Pierre-Louis dominated the paint. He blocked four shots and altered another handful. He was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim after a first-half dunk but said he didn’t feel he had a choice.
“It was my momentum,” he said. “I was coming full speed and I didn’t want to go into the crowd, so I hung onto the rim until I got back. It was a tough call.”
Rositano said Pierre-Louis has turned up his game for the postseason.
“The last couple of weeks he’s been so focused and he’s a monster,” Rositano said. “He’s a matchup nightmare because he can handle it, he’s strong around the basket and he’s a good foul shooter. He’s just a good player.
“He’s smart. If someone is open he’s going to get them the ball and if he sees a seam he’s going to take it.”
Lorain will play for the district championship Saturday night against the winner of tonight’s Berea-Midpark-Strongsville game, also at Elyria Catholic. The Titans fell to Elyria in the district championship game last season.
“We have a chip on our shoulder because it was taken away from us last year,” Rositano said. “They want to get that net back and they have to go earn it Saturday night.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lorain 73, Midview 64
MIDVIEW (64): Aidan Breggins 1-0-2, Trevor Porter 2-0-5, Gage Carns 7-2-18, Vince Birth 7-2-21, Jonny Manning 6-2-14, Isiah Johnson 2-0-4. Totals 25-6-64.
LORAIN (73): Jordan Jackson 2-2-6, Taevon Pierre-Louis 10-5-25, Devone Grant 9-9-31, David Weatherington 2-2-6, Jaiden Sledge 2-0-5. Totals 25-18-73.
Midview 10 21 11 22 — 64
Lorain 18 16 16 23 — 73
Three-point goals: Midview 8-19 (Birth 5, Carns 2, Porter), Lorain 5-11 (Grant 4, Sledge). Field goals: Midview 25-53 (47 percent), Lorain 25-52 (48 percent). Free throws: Midview 6-7 (86 percent), Lorain 18-25 (72 percent). Rebounds: Midview 31 (Carns 10), Lorain 28 (Pierre-Louis 15). Turnovers: Midview 20, Lorain 9. Fouls: Midview 18, Lorain 11. Fouled out: Breggins.