COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It's good to be an elite level athlete. Fortunately for Grandview Heights, junior forward Luke Lachey is as elite as an athlete gets and used that athleticism to put the finishing touches on a district title.
Helping fuel a 14-5 run in the final 5:23 of Friday's Division III district final, Lachey and Grandview Heights slammed the door shut on Johnstown in a 54-49 victory. With Grandview missing the front end of a one and one with 12 seconds to go and holding a 52-49 lead, Lachey needed to step up and make a play.
The 6-foot-6 junior did just that as he picked the pocket of Johnstown senior Owen Hazelbaker and flushed home a district title winning dunk to power Grandview to the Bowling Green regional tournament.
In a game where Grandview needed to surpass the 50 point mark, something that only five teams did against Johnstown all season, the Bobcats did just that.
The game swung with 3:20 to go, as senior wing Manny Day hit a tough shot off the glass to put Grandview ahead 46-44. Johnstown struck back nearly a minute later, as a Jaren Hewitt three put the Johnnies back up 48-47 with 2:29 to go.
Grandview went back to Day on the next trip down, as the senior was fouled and knocked down two clutch free throws to put the Bobcats ahead 48-47 with 1:39 remaining.
From this point forward, Johnstown never led again as Grandview executed down the stretch. Senior guard Aaron Cincione knocked down four-straight free throws in clutch time, as his last two makes put the Bobcats up 52-49 with :43.1 to go.
This was where Lachey made his impact on the defensive end. Curling off a screen for a potential game-tying three, Hazelbaker's attempt was blocked by Lachey, who fought through the screen and showed off his elite explosion to swat the shot.
While Johnstown got the ball back, the Johnnies could not convert, which put Day at the line with :12.2 remaining.
As Day missed both free throws, Grandview's lead hung in the balance as Hazelbaker came up the floor looking to knot things at 52.
Sitting down on defense, Lachey anticipated a crossover from the West Liberty signee, picking his pocket and finishing a huge dunk to put the game away.
Grandview showed great resilience throughout the contest, as the Bobcats trailed by as many as 10 points in the third quarter. Ending the third quarter on a 14-7 run, Grandview went into the fourth trailing by three points.
Facing a 44-42 deficit with 4:55 to go, Day stepped up majorly for Grandview. Scoring a tough bucket off the glass and coming down 37 seconds later and hitting a contested mid-range, Day's four-point spree gave Grandview a 46-44 lead, its first since the game was 2-0.
While Hewitt knocked down a three on the next trip, Day came up clutch again, knocking down two free throws to give the Bobcats the lead for good with 1:39 remaining.
In a matchup of two programs who hadn't won district titles since 2016, Grandview made the key plays late to take home the victory.
Lachey led the Bobcats with 20 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Sitting down on defense in the second half and slowing down Hazelbaker, Lachey was clearly the MVP as this same Johnstown team rolled over Grandview 56-35 on Dec. 29 with the 6-foot-6 junior out with mono.
Outside of Lachey, Day added 16 crucial points, scoring the ball well from mid-range and in, making an impact with his aggressiveness and ability to create separation. Junior guard Brian Collier added 10 points, while Cincione added six points on clutch free throws. Junior forward Lance Trares may have finished with two points, but his defense on Johnstown sophomore Jake Lusk was important down the stretch, as he helped hold the 6-foot-3 forward to six points.
For Johnstown, Hazelbaker was everything and then some, as he finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. The 6-foot-6 senior was held to four points, three rebounds and a single assist in the second half, as Lachey's defensive efforts helped him down.
Outside of Hazelbaker, sophomore guard Gavin Foe added 12 points and five rebounds in a strong two-way showing. Junior guard Matt Sayer added 10 points and four rebounds, while Hewitt and Lusk pitched in six points each.
Grandview Heights advances to the Bowling Green regional tournament to take on the winner of Genoa and Oregon Cardinal Stritch on Wednesday, March 13 at 6:15 p.m.
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