KOUTS — It took a little while for 21st Century to get its legs underneath them but once it did, it showed why their the favorite to win a third straight sectional.
Leading by seven at halftime, the Cougars woke up from their den and imposed their will with a 46-point second half in a 76-51 win over Washington Township in the Class A Kouts Sectional.
"We played much better in the second half," 21st Century coach Rodney Williams said. "I think (Washington Twp.) was tired in the second half and we were able to take advantage of that. We played 10 men and they only play six or seven so I think they were a little fatigued and that helped us.
We won, so I'm happy about that and we live to play another day. I don't know how many turnovers we had and we'll look at that but if we take care of the basketball and play better defense, we'll be okay."
Zach Little's pair of free throws brought Washington (16-5) back within 10 early in the fourth but missed opportunities near the basket proved costly as 21st Century used a 12-2 run to go up by 20. It led by as much as 27, eliminating the Senators for the second straight season.
"We were right there," Washington Twp. coach Scott Bowersock said of getting the deficit down to 10. "Then, we missed too many shots and that deflated our sails and they went on a run. They're a great team and very well-coached. DeAndre Gholston is every bit as good as he was advertised."
The Kent State commit led the Cougars (18-6) with 27 points and nine rebounds, with 20 points and seven rebounds coming in the second half alone and 14 of those coming in the fourth.
"I picked up my intensity a little more and I crashed the glass more," he said. "The ball wasn't really coming my way because they were guarding me hard and I had to find a way to get going, so I just went to the glass. Coach (Williams) told us to pick the intensity up at halftime and we started pushing the ball more and that was key. We turned the defensive pressure up and started getting steals and offensive rebounds and that helped us blow the lead open."
Johnell Davis scored 19 points and nine rebounds for 21st Century, with 11 and five coming by halftime. Melvon Cunningham and Torrence Hayes added eight and seven points, respectively. The Cougs scored 21 points off the bench to Washington's zero.
"That's really important," Williams said of his bench production. "We don't want to put the whole load on DeAndre or Johnell, so we'd like to spread it around. If we can do that, then we're doing okay."
"Usually when we get deeper in the tournament, our productions falls off," Gholston said. "If we can keep this rolling with the whole team producing like that then I think we got a chance to make another run."
Brock Pappas led the Senators (16-5) with 17 points and nine rebounds and Colin Burton added 13 points. Dylan Clem had nine points and eight rebounds.
The Cougars advance to Friday's semis against Morgan Township, who they defeated 74-56 on Jan. 27.