Northland (Ohio) reaches Beach Ball Classic finals

mmckinnon@thesunnews.comDecember 30, 2013 

KEITH ALAN JACOBS

Northland (Ohio) senior Derek McKeithen said that his team wants a Beach Ball Classic championship more than anything.

The Vikings still have a shot at it.

After defeating Madison Memorial (Wis.) 51-47 in the semifinals on Monday, Northland will play for the championship on Tuesday.

“We want this more than anything,” he said. “We just want to win a championship. We want it bad. We’re ready. We didn’t think we were going to make it this far so we have to do this for each other.”

The Spartans didn’t hold the lead for the entire game, but chipped back and cut their deficit to three points with about 30 seconds to go.

“They have a lot of heart,” Madison Memorial coach Steve Collins said. “I have three guys out with the flu right now; one starter. They’re fighting through a lot right now. I don’t think they ever had the lead but never gave up their fight the entire game. This thing is a marathon sometimes. A couple bounces here and there and maybe we’re on the winning side of that.”

Said McKeithen: “We fought hard. When we punched them, they punched us. We punched them in the mouth, they punched us in the mouth. We played smart at the end and pulled it out.”

McKeithen finished with a game-high 17 points and four steals. Doug Taylor chipped in 11 points for the Vikings.

“My teammates picked me back up,” McKeithen said. “I got down on myself, but they helped me back up.”

Madison Memorial had a big size advantage as it outrebounded Northland 45-24. Darral Willis had a game-high 15 rebounds to go along with 12 points for the Spartans (8-1).

“They beat us up,” Vikings coach Sean Taylor said. “They were physical. We didn’t match that physicality and they wanted it. We have to definitely bring our intensity level up. Those are some tough physical guys and we didn’t match it like we should have. We thought if we were close on the rebound battle, we could definitely win. We weren’t even close.”

Even though his team wasn’t close in the rebounding battle, Northland forced 29 turnovers and outscored Madison Memorial 22-9 in points off turnovers. Northland also held a 28-20 advantage on points scored in the paint.

“I’m proud of my guys,” said Taylor, whose team shot 32.7 percent from the field. “By far wasn’t our best game. Definitely wasn’t our best shooting performance. But they fought through it; they grinded it out. [Assistant coach Todd] Barnes said we had to get grimy -- and that’s what we did. We had to get grimy, we had to get dirty. If we wanted to be in that championship game, we had to empty the tank.”

Tyler Lindquist had 16 points and five rebounds and Shareef Smith added 14 points for the Spartans.

It was the first loss for Madison Memorial, but Collins said it will only help his squad.

“I think we were almost too pumped up,” he said. “They really wanted to get to the finals. With their pressure, we turned the ball over too many times. But this is all part of a learning experience of coming down here to play opponents like that to figure out what we need to work on. This will give me a long list of things we need to work on.”

Collins said he also enjoyed his time spent in Myrtle Beach.

“This is one of the best high school basketball tournaments in the country,” Collins said. “They just take such good care of you. You basically don’t have to do anything but show up and play basketball. So they have a good thing going for them.”

Meanwhile, Northland will be playing for a championship and Taylor said he expects his team to play harder on Tuesday.

“We’re going to play hard,” he said. “We’re going to leave it on the floor. What happens, happens. We’re going to leave it out here. You’re going to see a hard-working team [Tuesday]. Tougher than you saw [Monday].”

•  NORTHLAND (51) – Shemar Waugh 3, Ty Hairston 5, Derek McKeithen 17, Seth Towns 7, Doug Taylor 11, Jhustus Cornley 2, Jaylen Tucker 6

•  MADISON MEMORIAL (47) – Daurice Fountain 5, Shareef Smith 14, Darral Willis 12, Tyler Lindquist 16

• Halftime: Northland 23-18. 3-point goals: Northland 2 (Hairston 1, McKeithen 1), Madison Memorial 3 (Fountain 1, Smith 2). Team fouls: Northland 11, Madison Memorial 17. Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: None.

•  Records: Northland 6-2, Madison Memorial 8-1

Contact MAX MCKINNON at 626-0302.

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