Canal Winchester gave ninth-seeded Orange a stiff tourney test, but, while the Pioneers found answers tough to come by in the first half, they came up with all the right ones down the stretch to secure a 53-46 Division I Central District sectional semifinal at Marysville High School.
Orange (16-5) forced seven Canal (9-11) turnovers in the final five minutes of the game, and Matt Kurelic and Blake Hoskins combined to make five of their seven free throws in the final minute, earning the Pioneers a win they had to fight for from start to finish.
Their start was less than stellar, as the Indians raced out to a 5-0 lead before ballooning the margin to 10, 24-14 with five minutes to go until halftime.
That’s when the tide started to turn, though. Declan Feery got Orange rolling with a tough hoop under the bucket, making it a 24-18 game just more than three minutes from halftime. Feery was fouled on the play, but, although he missed the ensuing free throw, the Pioneers seemed to have their bounce back.
Nick Deitsch followed Feery’s score with a smooth jumper to make it a 24-20 game and, after Andy Bosley — who finished with a game-high 16 points — converted two free throws on the next possession, Deitsch hit a running jumper in the lane to knot the game at 24-all.
Canal Winchester scored the final hoop of the half, taking a 26-24 lead into the locker room, but Orange was back in business, with momentum firmly on its side.
The Indians scored the first four points of the second half, but three quick scores from Kurelic, with a Bosley bucket sprinkled in, accounted for an 8-0 Pioneer run they parlayed into a 36-32 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Hoskins started the fourth with a three-pointer and Kurelic added a three of his own to make it 44-36 with seven minutes to go. Canal made it interesting despite the turnover troubles, cutting the deficit to two points on three different occasions in the final few minutes of action, but Orange had an answer each time, with the aforementioned duo of Kurelic and Hoskins sealing the deal from the line.
Kurelic and Deitsch followed Bosley in Orange’s top three with 15 and eight points, respectively.
Thomas Nolan led Canal Winchester with 14 points in the setback.
With the win, Orange will take on Reynoldsburg in a sectional final Thursday at 6 p.m., back in Marysville.