Tigers Win OHSAA Sectional Title
March 14, 2024 by Alan Kornspan

Fall in Close Contest to Dukes in District Semifinals

The Chagrin Falls boys basketball team made an excellent run in the OHSAA playoffs to defeat Columbiana, 45-35, Feb. 27 in the OHSAA sectional semifinals.

The Tigers chased that win with a 50-49 victory over Rittman on March 1 to claim the OHSAA sectional title.

Then the Tigers faced the Wellington Dukes during the district semifinals March 5 at Gilmour.

Trailing 13-1 to start the contest, the Tigers showed great resilience and battled to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter.

The Dukes, though, outscored the Tigers 16-12 in the final quarter to claim a 50-46 district semifinal victory.

Post-game, Chagrin Falls Head Coach Dave Bargar said his team did a good job of staying resilient after getting down early on.

“Obviously the harsh start in the first quarter didn’t help anything,” Bargar said. “But I thought we gathered ourselves and got some composure and started to make some great plays once we were able to get back into it.”

Helpful in doing that were junior guards Ozzy DiFranco and Brad Russell.

Russell had two clutch first-half 3-pointers, one at the end of the first quarter and the other early in the second quarter.

These, as well as two additional first-half 3-pointers by DiFranco and Quin Bargar, helped reenergize the Tigers.

DiFranco’s seven second-quarter points also helped get the Tigers back in the game.

Afterward, DiFranco said he told Russell on the sidelines during the first quarter that they needed to help the Tigers make a comeback — and that’s exactly what they did the rest of the game.

After halftime, Russell and DiFranco continued to lead the Tigers in their comeback.

In the third quarter, Russell led the Tigers with seven points, and the Tigers tied the game at 34-34 heading into the final quarter.

In the fourth quarter, DiFranco led the Tigers with six points, but the Dukes were able to pull away in the final two minutes.

Throughout the Tigers’ playoff run, many players contributed on the offensive and defensive sides of the court.

In the sectional semifinals against Columbiana, the Tigers were led by Spencer Kaas (24 points), Ryan Curtiss (7) and Jacob Kay (6).

Curtiss led his team during the sectional title game with 24 points, five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a blocked shot.

Also leading the Tigers offensively in that game were Evan Castellucio (10 points, 3 assists), Aiden Beresford (8 points, 4 assists) and Russell (7 points),

DiFranco led his team in the district semifinal with 15 points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist. Also, Russell had 13 points.

Adding to that offensive point total were Curtiss (7 points), Kay (4), Bargar (3), Beresford (2) and Kaas (2).

“Obviously we got off to a horrendous start at 0-7,” Coach Bargar said of his team’s season. “To the kids’ credit, they gathered themselves, they figured it out, got a good run there in the middle, and won I think 5 out of 7.

“I mean, we were playing most of our last half of the season without at least one starter, sometimes three. But we were able to at least tread water, and we knew that once we hit the tournament, we got some of the guys back and we would have a chance to do something, and that’s kind of what happened.”

Russell recalled the resulting playoff run.

“The first two games were a great experience for us because a lot of us have never been varsity (players) before,” he said. “So two road playoff games, great environments, definitely got us prepared for next year.”

Added DiFranco, “None of us really had a lot of experience going into the playoffs. Went to two away games, great atmospheres, got the wins and kind of built the momentum for this game. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win, but we’ll be ready next year.”

For the 2024-25, the Tigers expect to return an experienced squad of upperclassmen, with only one senior on this year’s team.