Johnson runs show for SCD in D3 title game, 53-37

RUSTY MILLER AP Sports Writer Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- After the championship trophy was presented, the nets were cut down and the celebration was just getting started, Holden Hertzel thought of his dad.

His father died earlier in the season. He had been a member of the last Cincinnati Summit Country Day team to make it to the state tournament. Only he never got a championship trophy, a piece of the net or a celebration because the Silver Knights lost the 1980 state title game.

But his son and this year's Silver Knights made up for it.

Kevin Johnson had 11 points to go with eight assists, leading SCD to its first state championship with a 53-37 victory over Portsmouth on Saturday in the Division III finale.

"This is one of the happiest days of my life," Holden Hertzel said. "My dad got here in 1980, but they lost (to Sandusky St. Mary, 62-56). For me, it's sort of like finishing the job, in my dad's memory. For me, it's the coolest feeling in my life."

Hertzel, with a full beard and a playing style to match that of a mountain man, muscled his way inside for seven points and added four rebounds, one blocked shot and a steal in 31 active minutes.

His father, Robbie Hertzel, died on Nov. 11, 2011, of colon cancer. His pallbearers were all teammates of his son.

"SCD basketball was something he enjoyed to the very last day," coach Michael Bradley said. "We know Robbie Hertzel had a hand in this and we are so excited to give him this victory today."

Mike Barwick also had 11 points for the Silver Knights (26-1), who were ranked third in the final Associated Press regular-season poll. They won their ninth game in a row.

They ran off the first nine points of the game and were never headed, coming up with a big basket to counter every run by the Trojans.

It was their defense which led the way.

"It was very difficult offensively," said Portsmouth coach Gene Collins. "Summit Country Day did a really good job of smothering us and covering up our shooters. We had a rough start and it was an uphill battle all day for us."

Zaide Whitley had 16 points, and first-team All-Ohioan and co-player of the year Dion McKinley added 13 points before fouling out for Portsmouth (24-3), which was ranked No. 6 in the AP poll.

SCD won the state title in its third appearance at the final four -- but first since making it in consecutive years in 1979 and 1980. Bradley, a former Kentucky player, said he wouldn't trade the rings won by the Wildcats during his playing days for the rings his team won on Value City Arena on Saturday.

The Silver Knights came in allowing 34.7 points a game and their defense backed up that stat, permitting just 27 points through three quarters, by which time the game was well in hand.

Antonio Woods, one of three sophomores in the team's top seven players, injured a knee late in the game and limped to the bench. He did not return. Woods had 12 points to lead a balanced attack in SCD's 49-41 win over Bedford Chanel in the state semifinal. He also hit a dagger of a 3 at the third-period buzzer that stunted a Portsmouth comeback.

Separated by eight points at the half, the teams traded buckets for the first 3 minutes of the period before SCD stretched its lead to 30-19 on Johnson's 3 and another silky 12-foot jumper. Portsmouth never got closer than five points again.

"I just put the game in my hands and let it flow," said Johnson, a special-mention All-Ohio selection by AP.

The Silver Knights came out of the blocks fast.

Barwick scored inside and Tommy Kreyenhagen powered his way through the lane for another basket. Johnson then hit a 12-foot pull-up jumper before Jake Rawlings poured in a 3 from the left wing to make it 9-0.

Portsmouth, averaging 62.3 points a game, scored its only points of the first 8 minutes when Duke Edwards hit a putback with just under a minute left in the quarter.

Portsmouth was making its 15th trip to the state tournament. The Trojans won titles in 1931, '61, '78 and '88 and have been runners-up four other times. They came in having won 21 games in a row.