DAYTON, Ohio — The Taft High School boys basketball team will play for a state championship Sunday at University of Dayton Arena.
The Senators defeated Cleveland Heights Lutheran East 56-43 Friday in a Division III state semifinal in front of 3,717 fans.
"I knew we would get to the final four," Taft coach Demarco Bradley said. "It was just all about can we get to the next one. Can we get to the final two? Lutheran East, they are the (defending) champions. I said before in order to become the champions you got to beat the champions."
Taft (18-8) advances to play Ottawa-Glandorf (25-2) in the Division III state final at 10:45 a.m. Sunday at UD Arena.
The Senators are going for their second state title in program history. Taft won the 2011 Division III state championship.
Bradley and company are seeking redemption a year after they lost on a buzzer-beater in the 2021 Division III state semifinal.
"The feeling is amazing right now," Bradley said. "I can't even describe it right now in words."
"One more."— Caleb Noe (@CalebNoeTV) March 18, 2022
Taft basketball celebrates after today's state semifinal win!@TaftNation's state championship game is at 10:45 Sunday morning.@WCPO @MikeDyer pic.twitter.com/yhWcauJ0nI
On Friday, the Senators were not going to relent on their effort on both ends of the floor.
Three players competed for all 32 minutes — senior guard Brandon Cromer, senior point guard Mekhi Elmore and junior guard/forward Rayvon Griffith.
Griffith scored a game-high 17 points to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Cromer and Elmore scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds each.
Freshman forward Kieran Granville-Britten scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
The Senators' defense was equally impressive. Taft limited Lutheran East to just 37% from the field including 27% in the fourth quarter.
Taft led the rebounding advantage, 33 to 23 and outscored Lutheran East 15-8 in the fourth quarter.
Even though Taft was scoreless the first 4:16 of the game, the Senators stayed patient and it paid off with a five-point halftime lead. The Senators never trailed again.
"Tonight was more about working as a team and not all about me," Griffith said. "Even if it's just getting in the paint rebounding, hitting free throws like I did at the end, anything to just seal the deal and get us the win."
The Senators are one step closer to completing a special journey.
"This was the revenge tour," Cromer said. "We got back to where we lost at and now we're going further. To sit there and see everybody cheering for us, it's the best thing in the world."