DUBLIN, Ohio -- Matching up for the first time since the 2013 sectional semifinals, Dublin Coffman and Dublin Jerome squared off with a little more on the line on Tuesday. With the No. 18 Rocks coming in as the underdogs, Dublin Coffman's group of young players banded together in a tough environment, taking down No. 18 Dublin Jerome, 59-54.
Despite struggling at the free-throw line and from behind-the-arc, Dublin Coffman would battle through adversity. Controlling Tuesday's game for most of the action, Coffman started fast, racing out to a 16-9 lead after a quarter of play.
Keeping a Jerome team that likes to play fast at a moderate pace, Coffman would rely on its underclassmen in the second quarter. Freshman point guard Dominiq Penn and sophomore wing Will Hunter both got into a rhythm before halftime, combining for 17 points in the first half to give Coffman a 33-27 advantage at the break.
In the third quarter, Coffman would extend its lead to 10, as a Luke Bartemes three put the Rocks up 39-29 with 4:30 to go in the frame. Dublin Jerome would strike back, ending the quarter on a 13-5 run, pulling within two at 44-42 going into the fourth.
Relying on its junior duo of Lucas House and Andrew Golda in the second half, Jerome would have a chance to take control of Tuesday's sectional final matchup when it mattered most. Golda would have his biggest moment of the game early into the quarter, as a three-point play from the 6-foot-8 post put Jerome ahead 45-44 with 7:11 to go.
Responding on the next possession, Coffman junior wing Trevor Grady put up his first points of the game on a powerful baseline slam, putting the Rocks back ahead 46-45.
Dublin Jerome senior point guard Zach Watson would take the lead back for the Celtics, hitting a three with 4:45 to go, putting Jerome ahead 48-47. As it went on Tuesday, whenever Jerome landed a haymaker, Coffman punched back harder.
Taking the lead back for Coffman, junior forward Nick Carlson scored a tough bucket inside, giving the Rocks the lead for the final time at 49-48 with 3:47 remaining.
Going back to Grady moments later, Coffman completed a sidelines alley-oop play from well beyond the three-point line, as the 6-foot-5 junior extended and finished through contact. Converting the three-point play, Grady's ensuing free throw put Coffman ahead 52-48 with 2:39 to go.
Jerome would cut the lead back to a single point, as senior Joe Dunnan buried his third triple of the game, closing the lead to 52-51 with 1:10 to go.
While it may have struggled at the line for stretches on Tuesday, Coffman executed when it mattered most, converting at the charity stripe in the final minute to close out a 59-54 victory.
Leading the way for the Rocks on the road was the freshman Penn, who finished with 16 points. Knocking down three triples, Penn's threes came at the right times, as the Ohio State legacy was able to stretch the Jerome defense with his deadly range. Carlson and Bartemes each added 11 points, as the sophomore Bartemes stepped up big-time for Grady, who battled foul trouble in the first half.
Hunter added nine points, all in the first half, as the lanky 6-foot-3 sophomore was able to blow by the Jerome defense on multiple occasions. Grady added all six of his points in the fourth quarter on athletic plays above the rim, which gave Coffman the juice and momentum it needed to pull off a tough win.
For Jerome, Watson led all scorers with 14 points and six assists. Wrapping up a great career where he had a major impact in Jerome's immense success in the last three seasons, Watson will move on to Carnegie-Mellon in Pennsylvania. House and Golda each added 11 points, while Dunnan finished with nine points on all three-point field goals. No other Jerome player scored more than three points on Tuesday.
With the win, Dublin Jerome advances to play the winner of No. 17 Grove City and No. 26 Olentangy on March 8. The location for that game is to be determined. Scrimmaging Grove City in the preseason and losing on the road to Olentangy earlier in the year, Dublin Coffman will have a bit more familiarity with its next opponent.
Advancing to the district semifinals yet again, Coffman continues to succeed in the tournament year after year.