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Malvern faced a daunting task when it took on Strasburg in a Division IV East District final at New Philadelphia High School.
The two teams met twice during the regular season, with the league-champion Tigers prevailing in both contests by scores of 42-39 and 52-48.
There would be no three-peat for Strasburg, as the Hornets pulled away in the closing seconds for a 53-41 win.
"What can you say about this team," commented Head Coach Dennis Tucci. "I am so proud of each and every one of them. You know you had a total team effort when you talk to different fans about the game, and there is no consensus on who was the player of the game. There are people who think Jaret was the player of the game, and others who believe that Mark was the difference, and yet there are others who say that Drew was best tonight.
"In addition, everyone agrees that we don't win that game without Brandon (Patterson), Jake (Moser), JB (Jordan Browning), Jack (Naiman), and Christian (Grimm)."
The game was much closer than the final score.
A driving layup from Drew Hutchison as the buzzer sounded gave Malvern a 17-14 lead after the opening eight minutes of play.
An 8-0 run midway through the second frame extended the Hornets lead to seven. It would settle for a 26-21 advantage heading into halftime.
Hutchison connected on a deep 3-ball as Malvern took its biggest lead of the night at 34-25. Strasburg closed the gap to 38-32 heading into the fourth stanza.
The Tigers got to within one at 42-41. Majestic came through in the clutch like he has done so many times during his four-year career. His long-range bomb made it 45-41.
Malvern secured the win with great defense down the stretch and a great effort at the charity stripe, making all 12 attempts over the final eight minutes of play.
Majestic led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds. Mark Mayle had 15 points and 10 boards, and Hutchison had 13 points, five assists and three rebounds.
"We did a fantastic job again at the end of quarters," stated Coach Tucci. "Those are such momentum plays, and our kids have been doing well in those situations. We also took three charges, and out rebounded the Tigers by nine.
"Our guys were tremendous at the foul line all night(18-of-21) but more importantly, we were 12-12 in the fourth quarter. These guys wanted to play Strasburg, and I told them that's great that we got our wish. Now it was put up or shut up time, and these Hornets let their playing do all the talking. I am so proud that they regrouped from a tough season, and they put it all behind them and are playing some great basketball at the right time.
"I would be remiss if I didn't mention our fans. Our kids know that we are so blessed to have the fans that we do. We truly appreciate it."
This is the second straight district title for the Hornets, and their third in four years.
Malvern was to battle Lutheran East in a regional semifinal at the famed Canton Memorial Fieldhouse on March 14. The second game was to feature Warren JFK against McDonald.
The two winners will come back to the Fieldhouse and play for a trip to the state final four on Friday, March 17, 7 p.m.
Earlier in the week, the Hornets won a thriller at Meadowbrook High School.
"What an exciting night of basketball," commented Coach Tucci. "I just loved the way we fought our way through this game and grinded out a win."
It looked as if Malvern's season would come to an end as they trailed by three points with 90 seconds to play in regulation.
Two free throws from Mayle cut the lead to one. Rosecrans looked to run some time off the clock, but Mayle made a great defensive play, jumping a pass and forcing a turnover.
The Hornets were patient on their next possession. The ball eventually went into Mayle. He shook off a double team, and found a wide open Jake Moser inside the paint. Moser banked in the layup, giving Malvern a 56-55 lead.
Rosecrans decided not to use a timeout and went into a motion offense. The ball found its way into the hands of Aaron Gehlken, who put up a mid-range jumper that bounced off the right side of the rim. An attempted putback bounced hard off the backboard as time expired.
The lead changed hands 10 times in the decisive fourth quarter.
Majestic led the winners with 24 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Mayle had 13 points, eight boards and three assists; Hutchison had 11 points and six assists; Patterson had six points; and Moser pulled down four rebounds to go along with his game-winning shot.
The Hornets scored the games first seven points and connected on three deep balls for a 17-11 first-quarter advantage.
Majestic's triple with 4:31 to go in the first half gave Malvern its biggest lead of the night at 29-16.
Rosecrans closed the half with a 10-3 run to get to within six at 32-26.
The Bishops outscored the Hornets 13-9 in the third frame to trail by just two with eight minutes to play.
"I thought Jaret was exceptional tonight," noted Coach Tucci. "He played his heart out and hit some big shots for us. We needed everyone of those 24 points, and those eight rebounds were huge. Drew played well again. He just handles the ball so well, and he has found a nice balance between passing to open teammates and getting shots for himself.
"Mark was a big factor in the win. He was steady all night, but he was a difference maker when it mattered the most. He made all four of his foul shots down the stretch, got the biggest steal of the season, and made a beautiful assist to Jake for the game winning basket. Jake played excellent defense on their all-star, and was the recipient of a nice pass from Mark to make the last bucket of the game. I was so happy for Jake.
"Brandon continues to play at a high level," the coached continued. "He made 2-of-3 field goal attempts from three and did a fantastic job on their best 3-point shooter. Our three subs played a total of 17 minutes and were instrumental in the win. We beat a great team tonight."