After a fast start in Sunday eveningâ€™s D-III district semifinal, Northwest gave top-seed Zane Trace all they wanted, but in the end, the SVC champs survived and advanced with a 52-48 win.
Zane Trace started fast attacking the glass off the dribble and then knocking down two threes â€“ Kirk Maxwell and Drew Davis â€“ to open up a 14-7 advantage. Unfortunately, a few things did go wrong in that first quarter that made for a tough match-up the rest of the half. Rick Chamberlin â€“ one of the elite defenders in the entire southeast â€“ picked up two early fouls forcing him to the bench for the rest of the half. This put Zane Trace in a tough spot trying to defend Northwestâ €™s Hank Leslie. Leslie, a player that the SVC became aware of last week when he dropped 29 points on Huntington in the sectional championship, is a 6-5 versatile player who as great feet and is a bear to defend in an isolation situation. With Chamberlin out, Leslie went to work scoring, forcing ZT into more foul trouble, and creating some looks for his teammates on the perimeter. Northwest grabbed a 19- 18 lead, and after the lead exchanged three more times, the two teams eventually went to the half tied at 24-24.
The third quarter brought Chamberlin back to the court. The senior did pick up another foul on a tough call with 3:44 remaining, but in the four-and-a-half minutes he was on the floor, it was by far the quietest Leslie was all night, and ZT was able to open up a lead. That lead climbed to as much as seven, but Northwest had a run left in them and again the run was centered around Leslie.
The problem with Chamberlin being off the floor, it forced ZT to send help. This led to open opportunities on the perimeter and as a couple triples started to fall, ZTâ€™s lead was closed to one at 43-42. Leslie then scored to take a 44-43 lead. Maxwell quickly answered to take the lead back, and the Pioneers would never trail again. Gabe Haynes and Davis eventually put the game away at the charity stripe.
Maxwell (now 24th all-time) led Zane Trace with 22 points and Drew Davis and Gabe Haynes both scored 11 points. Zane Trace really struggled from beyond the three-point line; however, late in the game when they started turning down the triple and attacking the glass they started to live on the free throw line. The Pioneers made only three of 14 attempts from deep, but they made good on 17 of 24 free throws.