Indians win sectional title with improbable comeback

Southern Local defeated East Canton by the score of 49-46

Photo of Andre and Jayce Sloan, taken by Michael Reiner

(WYTV) – The OHSAA sectional championship game between East Canton and Southern Local was a prime example that every game of basketball isn’t truly over until the final buzzer sounds.

Andre Sloan converted a free throw to help Southern Local go up by three with 2.7 seconds left. East Canton had one last shot but it didn’t fall.

The Indians went from being down 17 at halftime to completing one of the most important comebacks in school history. The final score read 49-46.

In the first quarter, both teams were battling on every possession.

The Hornets had the goal of going inside to Anthony Baad early on in the contest. Baad was responsible for nine of his team’s 15 points in the first quarter. East Canton led the Indians at the end of the first quarter 15-10.

The second quarter belonged to the Hornets. East Canton outscored Southern Local 21-9 in the second period.

Mitch Mitchell scored six straight Hornet points midway through the second quarter. Mitchell finished with 12 points, three rebounds and two assists on the night.

Dallas Malldovan of East Canton provided a huge spark off the bench as he tallied seven points and three rebounds in the final three minutes of the half.

Jacob Joiner was held in check by the Hornets throughout the game. Joiner’s shots did not fall so he was held to only one point in the first half.

The Hornets led 36-19 at halftime and they were in full control of the game.

However, Jayce Sloan provided a halftime speech that set the tone for his team’s effort in the second half. He explained how his team needed to go out and make big plays so they could prove the doubters wrong.

Sloan used his speed and agility to propel the Indians to a 5-0 run to start the half. Sloan finished with a team high 13 points and five boards.

Southern Local played arguably the best defense it has all season for the remainder of the game. The Indians only managed to give up a total of three points in the third quarter.

Jacob Joiner made his first field goal of the game on a jump shot with 3:40 left in the quarter. Joiner was limited to seven points, three rebounds and three assists.

East Canton led by the slim margin of 39-30 at the end of the third quarter.

Both teams turned the ball over profusely in the final eight minutes of play.

Photos of #24 Ethan West (left) and #1 Dominic Pugliano (right) climbing the ladder, taken by Amy Mellott
Photos of #24 Ethan West (left) and #1 Dominic Pugliano (right) climbing the ladder, taken by Amy Mellott

Southern Local’s Andre Sloan and Ethan West both made key free throws with less than two minutes to go in the contest to tie the game.

Both teams were in a stand-still until Jayce Sloan made a driving layup with under 35 seconds to go to give the Indians a 46-44 lead.

Dominic Pugliano made a driving layup on the following Indians’ possession to extend the lead to four with 27 seconds to go.

Anthony Baad made a layup on the next possession to cut the lead to two with 15 seconds remaining. Baad finished with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.

After another series of turnovers, East Canton had the ball with six seconds to go in regulation.

Mitch Mitchell missed a layup that was immediately followed by Anthony Baad. Baad missed an elaborate put-back dunk and he hung on the rim to cause a technical foul with two seconds left.

Andre Sloan missed the first free throw and converted the second to make it a three point game.

“I would’ve prayed to God to make sure that anyone else could’ve taken those free throws but me, but I made one so that’s good,” Andre Sloan said.

Trey Mallonn fired away for one last shot to tie the game but he missed.

Southern Local defeated East Canton by the score of 49-46.  The Indians are headed to Struthers for the district tournament.

The game had one of the most unbelievable second-half turn-arounds you could ever see at a high school basketball game.

“This is the first time our guys get to play at Struthers under the new district format,” said Indians head coach Aaron Blatch. “We’ve been through a lot this year so I feel like our guys deserved to win more than anybody tonight.”

“You would think that Jayce is the older brother because he picks up on things so quickly. He always hustles and works hard and his heart is always all in it,” said Andre Sloan.

East Canton head coach Kyle McBride discussed the roller coaster of emotions his team has been on this week.

“I think we grew a lot this week because this shows that we can make it to Struthers next year if everyone stays on the same page. Southern Local played their butts off and attacked the glass. Now, since we can look at making it to Struthers, as an expectation I hope that my guys will continue to work hard in the summer so that we will get to this point again,” McBride said.

Aaron Blatch had one more positive comment to say about the impact the community and student body had on this classic encounter.

“I loved the way our student body and community represented us tonight. I almost had to push the student section back myself because I didn’t want to get a technical. We owed them a game of this caliber. They showed a lot of support and we will do everything we can to try and get another win, this time in Struthers,” he said.

Southern Local now improves to 8-16 and will take on Valley Christian at the Struthers Fieldhouse in the District Semi-final game on Monday. East Canton finishes the season with a record of 5-19.