CHILLICOTHE, Ohio -- It wasn’t easy, but where there’s a will there’s a way. DeSales found that way Thursday evening as they narrowly defeated Chillicothe Unioto 40-37 in a Division II regional semifinal.
The southeast district champion Shermans gave DeSales all they could handle for the full 32 minutes. In the end, it was Des Watson’s game-high 19 points and Obed Achirem’s toughness that willed the Stallions to the victory.
This Sweet 16 matchup was highly competitive and very physical. All the action picked up in the second quarter after both teams used the first quarter to settle in. The game was tied at just six after eight minutes of play.
DeSales doubled their points on the first two possessions of the second quarter as Michael Walker and Austin Mann both buried threes on assists from Watson.
Mann connected from behind the arc another time before the half closed, this time on a high level full court pass from Watson. DeSales took a 17-13 lead into the break thanks to their second quarter shooting.
The third quarter was more back and forth action as there were three ties and three lead changes. The Stallions were the beneficiaries of a couple of lucky bounces leading to scores that helped them take a 26-24 lead into the final quarter.
The final eight minutes did not disappoint as DeSales’ stars stepped up when it mattered most.
After Unioto began the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run to retake the lead, Watson proceeded to score eight straight points for the Stallions. Two threes and a pair of free throws after putting his man in a blender propelled DeSales to a 34-31 lead with four minutes left in the game.
The Shermans took the lead back however when Isaac Little found a wide open Cameron Debord on an elite drift pass. Debord knocked down the three while getting fouled and converted the free throw. Unioto regained the lead, 37-36 with just over one minute left in the game.
After that foul, the players on the floor for DeSales looked at each other, took a deep breath, and collectively reset.
To no one’s surprise, it was Achirem’s toughness that came up clutch for the Stallions. On the ensuing possession the senior wing finished through what should have been called a foul and gave DeSales a 38-37 lead.
He wasn’t done though as the hustle carried over onto the defensive end. On Unioto’s attempt to retake the lead, Achirem came up with a huge steal, essentially closing out the game.
Watson shut out the Shermans for good with two clutch free throws with just a few seconds remaining, securing DeSales spot in the Division II regional final.
DeSales will face the winner of Vincent Warren and Byesville Meadowbrook in the regional final on Saturday, March 13 at 3 p.m. back at Southeastern High School. The Stallions will be fighting for a spot in the Final Four after last year’s tournament run was ended early due to the Covid-19.