Windham boys basketball bows out of tourney after failure to hold fourth-quarter lead

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By Jim Manion | Correspondent

The Windham Bombers entered Monday night's district semifinals looking to advance to the championship game for a chance to win the program's fifth consecutive Division IV district title.

The previous titles all came at Warren G. Harding High School, however, the stage this year was moved to Grand Valley High School in Orwell.

The switch was not kind to the Bombers as they saw their season draw to a close in overtime 77-76 at the hands of Cortland Maplewood. The Rockets (20-4), the Northeastern Athletic Conference champions, had split with the Bombers during the season in their conference matchups. That regular-season split kept the Bombers from owning part of the NAC crown, finishing one game back of Maplewood in the standings.

On Monday, Maplewood kept the Bombers short again.

Windham's downfall was the inability to maintain a lead they held for almost every minute of the game. Windham held the advantage for the entire game with the exception of a one point Maplewood lead for only one trip down the floor.

The Rockets tied the game in regulation on a pair of free throws with only 19 seconds. Windham (18-6) had an opportunity to score in the final 19 seconds, but came up short. The Bombers were outscored 18-9 in the fourth quarter after holding an 11-point lead with five minutes to play.

Maplewood outscored Windham 13-12 in the overtime period as Ethan Obradovich scored the first bucket for the Rockets in the extra period to take the lead, then his team would hit only one other basket from the field, but knocked down 9-of-12 shots from the free-throw line. The charity tosses allowed Maplewood to build a seven-point lead in the extra period.

Bombers coach Marty Hill said his players were just not sharp.

"You can't do that when you're playing a good team like Maplewood in a district game," Hill said. "They (Maplewood) shot the ball really well in the second half. We thought we had the advantage with our speed and they had an advantage with their size, but we got a lot of shots inside. They are a good team and a senior-dominated team, and we couldn't make a shot in the fourth quarter."

Obradovich, a 6-foot-3 senior, led the Rockets with 23 points and nine rebounds. Kevin Jones hit for 16 points, while Nate Spitler scored 11 for Maplewood.

Four Bombers players scored in double figures, with Parker Rickey leading the way with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Jonah Konzen scored 13 points, while Stephen Kacenski had 12 and Brad Kowalski finished with 10.

Windham point guard Jared Taylor scored eight points, while dishing out 12 assists and collecting six steals. The Bombers forced the Rockets into committing 15 turnovers, while only having nine of their own. However, four of those nine miscues came in the last five minutes of the contest, when Windham managed to score only five points.

The Bombers' defense stepped up in the first quarter and forced Maplewood into seven turnovers. Windham took advantage and pushed out to a 22-12 lead. A steal by Kacenski and fastbreak basket in the final seconds was highlighted when Rickey hit a high-arching 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The Rockets came to life in the second quarter and gained their only lead (33-32) inside of one minute to play in the first half. However, Konzen cashed in for the Bombers with a 3 from the corner as the horn sounded to give Windham a 35-33 advantage at intermission.

Windham held a nine-point lead (55-46) after three quarters and led 61-50 at the 4:20 mark. Maplewood went on a 12-3 run to finish regulation to force overtime. Obradovich scored six of those points, then opened the overtime with four straight points as Maplewood went up to a quick 70-64 lead.

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