COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There's a first time for everything. A rural school who typically takes pride in sports such as baseball and football, Berne Union has never won a district title in basketball. Quite frankly, they haven't even came close, as their last appearance in the game was in 1964.
Meeting up with MSL-Cardinal rival Fisher Catholic for the third time this season on Saturday, the Rockets won the season series, taking down the Irish 50-40 to capture a district title.
Opening up the game on an 11-2 run, Berne Union set the tone immediately. Junior point guard Chase McCartney either assisted on or scored all of the Rockets points in the first, tallying five points and three assists in the frame.
A big three from senior wing Chase Blevins helped them take a 14-8 lead into the second.
Senior guard Jayden Boyden began the second scorching hot for Fisher Catholic. After scoring on a putback and finishing a tough baseline lay-in, the senior hit a big triple for force a Rocket timeout while Fisher Catholic took their first lead of the day at 15-14 with 6:31 left in the half.
With both teams answering one another's jabs every possession in the second, we saw seven lead changes before a 6-1 stretch to end the half helped Fisher Catholic take a 25-21 lead into the locker room.
After a score from Fisher Catholic senior Carter Brady to begin the second half, Berne Union made the run that became the deciding factor in the contest.
Behind seven points and two big three-pointers from sophomore Brock Unger, the Rockets used a 13-3 run to head into the final frame ahead 34-30.
While face-guarding Boyden and Fisher Catholic junior Bryson Vogel, Berne Union played excellent defense in the third, holding the Irish to five points in the quarter.
Knocking down their shots at the line and crashing the offensive glass hard, Berne Union used a 6-0 run to go ahead 40-32 with 3:56 left, ultimately enough to help them hang on and pull out the win.
Senior wing Zane Mirgon was excellent down the stretch, hitting five big free-throws at line to help his team build their largest lead of the day, ahead 49-37 with :51.9 seconds to go.
Unger led the Rockets with 19 points on four triples, while junior post Jacob Harmon contributed nine points and nine rebounds. Mirgon scored eight, five in the fourth, and McCartney had a nice game with seven points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Boyden led Fisher Catholic with 15 points and senior post Bailey Francis also scored 10.
Berne Union advances to the Athens regional to take on New Boston Glenwood on Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday at Ohio University.
Brock Unger (6’5 WF / Berne Union / 2021): The 6-foot-5 wing was unquestionably the best immediate and long term prospect on the floor tonight, finishing with 19 points. With ideal size for a collegiate wing, the sophomore is best suited as a perimeter oriented four at this point in his career. Offensively, Unger’s value comes from his knockdown shooting ability, burying three shots from deep off movement with exceptional balance and a projectable release. The Rockets are very creative with how he is utilized offensively working him off zipper, screen the screener, and elevator actions to free him up for open looks. He has enough handling coordination to attack off the dribble and take advantage of a non closeout, which is a key complimentary skill to his shooting equity.
Defensively, Unger was tasked with face guarding Fisher Catholic wing Bryson Vogel, so it was hard to grasp a true feel for his value as a team defender off the ball. He does have a unique body type with very high hips. Usually, this makes it harder for defenders to truly sit down and they suffer laterally from it.
As a sophomore, Unger still has plenty of time to continue to develop his game. I’d like to see him continue to improve his physique, hopefully leading to some underlying north/south speed off the dribble and laterally as a perimeter defender. He’s undoubtedly a legitimate collegiate prospect that will fit in perfectly in an off ball scoring role, where all of the actions he currently works out of are translatable at the next level. Look for Unger to develop a reputation as the best shooter in Central Ohio over the next few seasons.
Chase McCartney (5’9 G / Berne Union / 2020): McCartney had a relatively quiet outing with seven points in the game. He is tasked with being Berne Union’s lead and only reliable ball handler on the floor. The 5-foot-9 guard has a relatively tight handle and solid change of direction speed off the dribble. This allows him to get into the lane, where he flashed moves to get around final rim protection. The junior knocked down a spot up three as well and that shooting consistency will be a major key in his offensive projection in the future, as well as a pull up game that we did not see at all today.
Defensively, McCartney’s motor is always running. He can frequently be found shooting the gap in a driving lane off the ball, taking advantage of his fantastic recovery speed. However, he does need to continue to improve his decision making and awareness as an off ball defender. If improved, McCartney will blossom into a plus team defender that can adequately guard his position on ball.
The junior should have a wildly productive senior season. While McCartney is a fantastic guard his awareness off the ball defensively, and as a lead ball handler will be pivotal swing skills in the future. He has a tendency to predetermine both his passes and scoring moves rather than reacting to what the defense gives him. We look forward to covering McCartney in the future and continuing to watch him improve.