FAIRBORN, Ohio -- Friday night will be an all-GCL South regional final at the Nutter Center.
La Salle (24-3) plays Moeller (26-0) in a Division I regional final at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the third time the teams will meet each other this season. It’s also the third time the programs have met each other in the regional final (2011, 2010).
"It feels amazing," La Salle senior forward Joe Hartmann said. "We want that. We want it really bad. Coach Flem (Dan Fleming) was telling us after the game that there are two teams in it from Cincinnati and two are from the GCL South. They got us the first two times. We are looking forward to that third (game)."
Moeller or La Salle will advance to the state semifinal at 5:15 p.m. March 24 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
Both GCL South programs advanced through tight finishes Wednesday night in the regional semifinals.
Hartmann made a layup with about 15 seconds left as the Lancers defeated Springfield 47-46 in the second regional semifinal Wednesday night at Wright State.
"I am just really proud of our guys," Lancers coach Dan Fleming said. "I thought both teams showed a lot of character tonight. We just got lucky to win by one."
La Salle's defense was strong all night and just allowed 18 points in the first half. The Lancers limited standout senior guard Danny Davis to nine points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field.
After Moeller defeated host La Salle 47-41 Feb. 3, Fleming and Moeller coach Carl Kremer said there was a good chance both teams could see each other in the regional tournament.
"When the draw came out, Kremer went one way and I said, 'We are going far the other way,'" Dan Fleming said. "If we see each other in the regional finals, then good for us. Maybe we’ll play at St. X and save the trip up here."
La Salle, ranked No. 13 in the season’s final Associated Press statewide poll, was led by senior guard CJ Fleming (Bellarmine signee), who had 15 points and four rebounds. He was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line. Senior guard Tre Crigler had 10 points and three assists.
The Lancers, who have won nine consecutive games, improved to 17-0 this season when making more free throws than their opponent and 113-4 over the past 10 seasons, according to WLSN, the school’s broadcast network.
Springfield (23-4), ranked No. 10 in the final AP poll, had three players in double figures including sophomore forward RaHeim Moss (10 points), senior guard Michael McKay (10 points) and junior forward Leonard Taylor (10 points).
Moeller vs. Mason
The state’s top-ranked basketball team was pushed to the brink in a regional semifinal Wednesday night.
But, Moeller made free throws and converted at opportune times down the stretch to defeat Mason in the night’s first regional semifinal.
"They hit us right in the mouth," Moeller coach Carl Kremer said. "They hit shots early. We got off the mat. It was just a gutsy effort."
Moeller (26-0), ranked No. 15 nationally by MaxPreps and No. 1 in the Associated Press state poll, will meet a familiar opponent on Friday and Kremer thought it was a possibility before the second semifinal.
Sophomore guard Miles McBride had 22 points, two assists and two steals to lead the Crusaders. He was 5 of 7 from the free-throw line including making two with 22.1 seconds left to give the Crusaders a 59-55 lead.
In a game that had high intensity and energy from the outset, the players had to focus intently down the stretch.
"Honestly, I wasn’t listening to anything," said McBride, the son of former Xavier University basketball player Walt McBride. "It was just me and the rim. I just felt the ball and let it go. I didn’t think about anything else."
Kremer was proud of his backcourt – junior point guard Isaiah Payton added 11 points and four assists. Kremer credited Payton and McBride with creating offense all night.
"I’m not surprised because I get to see (McBride) everyday," Kremer said. "Our backcourt is pretty special. I thought Sleepy (Payton) and Deuce (McBride) were just special. They were able to create their own shot."
Moeller senior guard Caleb Canter added 12 points and two assists.
Mason led Moeller by as much as 10 early in the second quarter (23-13) and the Comets controlled the up-tempo transition game in the first few minutes.
The first half was tied four times in the final 2:13 of the first half. The game was tied at 35 at halftime.
But, Mason coach Greg Richards didn’t like the fact that the Comets couldn’t hold the lead from the first half. He also said the Comets didn’t get to the free throw line enough in the first half.
"They started with a good spurt in the third quarter and that kind of hurt us and made us call a timeout," Richards said.
Moeller jumped out to a 7-0 run early in the third quarter and never relinquished the lead.
The teams furiously traded baskets in the fourth quarter but Moeller maintained the advantage.
Mason (21-3) was led by senior forward Matt King, an Ohio Dominican signee, led the Comets with 24 points and three rebounds in his final high school game.
Senior guard Eddie Puisis had 10 points and five rebounds for the Comets, who won their first Division I district title at University of Dayton Arena last weekend.
"This senior group is extremely special," Richards said. "There is not many programs, teams or players that can say they’ve been a part of 76 wins like and Eddie and Matt in the last four years which is obviously a school record. Nobody else has come close to that."
Wednesday was the first meeting between both programs since a sectional final in 2003.
"That is the toughest, most well-conditioned, smart, run-their-offense (group)," Kremer said of Mason. "I can’t have more respect for a team than I have for that group."