By Rob Kiser
It was third meeting of the season for good friends Spencer Cordonnier and Brad Francis Wednesday on the hardwood at Garbry Gymnasium when top seeded Russia and 12th seed Houston met in Piqua D-IV sectional tournament action.
Cordonnier is a long-time Russia assistant and former Russia standout in his second season as Raiders coach, while Francis, the former Russia athletic director and longtime Raiders assistant, is in his first season as Houston coach.
“You know we are really good friends,” Cordonnier said. “We talk quite a bit — although we haven’t talked a lot in the last two weeks (since the tournament draw).”
And while the favored Raiders won 80-44, Cordonnier knew nothing would come easy.
Russia, 18-5, now plays Fort Loramie for the sectional title at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Houston finished the season 3-20.
“The Houston kids play hard and Brad (Francis) really does a great job with them,” Cordonnier said. “We certainly weren’t taking anything for granted. Especially after the last game — they had us down one with four minutes to go in that one.”
Francis downplayed coaching against a school where he spent so many years — and the community where he lives.
“Sure, I know all the kids and their parents,” Francis said. “I am friends with a lot of them. But, when it comes down to it, it is about winning the game. They are wearing a different color then we are.”
And Houston gave Russia all they wanted in the first quarter.
In fact, a three by Dylan Hensley with six seconds to go in the opening quarter had given Houston a 13-11 lead.
But, Russia guard Sam Cook drilled a three from the corner to give the Raiders a 14-13 lead and spark a 37-7 Russia run.
“We didn’t do anything special there,” Cordonnier said. “It was a big shot. He (Sam Cook) just did what he was supposed to do in that situation.”
Houston would not make another field goal until Tristan Freistuhler hit the first of two 3-pointers with 4:31 to go in the third quarter — 11:35 after Hensley’s three. By then, Russia had built a 48-20 lead.
“I know,” Francis said about having the lead late in the first quarter. “That shot at the end of the first quarter turned into a big momentum builder for them.”
Another big key for Russia was the offensive rebounding — they matched Houston’s defensive rebounds with 14 in the game, extending a number of possessions in the first half.
“We knew that was going to be a problem,” Francis said. “There were 28 rebounds at that end. We got 14 and they got 14.”
And Cordonnier liked the way his team played.
“We wanted to push the ball,” he said about the tempo. “We couldn’t let them sit back in that zone. We wanted to beat them down the floor.”
Jack Dapore led a balanced Russia attack with 15 points — all in the first half.
Drew Poling scored 12 points, while Hunter Cohee had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Daniel Kearns added 11 points, all in the second half.
Cameron Arnold had 14 points and seven rebounds to pace Houston, whil Dylan Hensley added 14 points.
Russia was 32 of 59 from the floor for 54 percent, including seven of 19 from 3-point range for 37 percent. The Raiders made nine of 11 free throws for 82 percent.
Houston was 10 of 40 from the floor for 25 percent, including six of 18 from behind the arc for 33 percent. The Wildcats converted 18 of 31 free throws for 58 percent.
Russia won the battle of the boards 43-24 and had 15 turnovers to Houston’s 18.
“We had two games on this floor in the holiday tournament, with maybe not quite the same atmosphere,” Cordonnier said. “We are glad to have these two games in.”
And he is glad to get past the matchup with his good friend as well.
Dylan Cordonnier 2-0-6, Drew Sherman 3-0-6, Cole Tebbe 1-0-2, Jack Dapore 6-1-15, Daniel Kearns 5-1-11, Sam Cook 2-0-5, Ethan Monnier 3-1-8, Drew Poling 5-2-12, Hunter Cohee 3-4-10, Carter Francis 0-0-0, Dion Puthoff 2-0-5, Evan Monnier 0-0-0, Jordan York 0-0-0, Carter Stueve 0-0-0. Totals: 32-9-80.
John Leist 0-0-0, Isaiah Beaver 0-1-1, Howie Ludwig 2-3-7, Cameron Arnold 1-12-14, Dylan Hensley 4-2-14, Luke Foster 0-0-0, Peyton Arnold 0-0-0, Tristan Freistuhler 2-0-6, Cameron Via 0-0-0, Quinton Cox 0-0-0, Wyatt Mohler 0-0-0, Caleb Sluss 0-0-0, Sage Bryant 1-0-2, Jairon Douglas 0-0-0, Josh Douglas 0-0-0. Totals: 10-18-44.
3-point field goals — Russia: Cordonnier (2), Dapore (2), Cook, Ethan Monnier, Puthoff. Houston: Hensley (4), Freistuhler (2).
Score By Quarters
Russia 14 37 61 80
Houston 13 18 30 44
Records: Russia 18-5, Houston 3-20.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.