HOWLAND — Locked in a one-point game at halftime, Campbell Memorial’s Kevin Moore was confident his team was going to be able to finish the job.
Turns out, Moore was part of the spark needed for the Red Devils to run Jefferson out of the gym entirely.
With CMHS up seven early in the third quarter, Moore took a pass on a breakaway, hammered down a one-handed dunk, and followed it with a 3-pointer to cap an 11-0 Memorial run. The Red Devils never looked back from there en route to a convincing 74-54 victory over Jefferson Area in the Division III Warren District championship in front of a sellout crowd Friday night at Howland High School.
The win was Campbell’s 20th in a row and also marked the program’s first district title since 2009.
“That dunk kind of got us going a little bit, and the gym started rocking. It was no looking back after that,” Memorial coach Nick Canterino said.
He added, “That was one of our big goals this year (winning the district). We knew this was going to be a special group, so we had some pretty lofty goals. We have some more goals we want to attain, but it’s nice to get this one.”
For as dominant as the second half, particularly the third quarter, was, the first half was a back-and-forth battle.
Jefferson (18-7) used turnovers and sharpshooting from 3-point range to keep the Red Devils (24-1) in reach. The Falcons connected on five first-half treys, four of which came in the first quarter.
Bobby Ray hit three of those to score nine of his team-high 13 points as the Falcons trailed Memorial 32-31 at the intermission.
Out of halftime, the Red Devils ramped up the intensity, using their full-court press to turn Jefferson over and get transition looks at the other end.
Moore connected on a 3-pointer to get the scoring going, and then Jameer Weaver followed with a triple of his own. Moore then finished that spurt off with his dunk and another 3-pointer to put Memorial up double digits for good, 43-31 at that time.
Moore finished with a game-high 22 points, and Weaver added nine. Dashaun Will scored 14, while Xavion Leonard added 12.
“In the first half, we didn’t play our best game,” Moore said. “We knew in the second half, we were going to pick it up. So being able to pick up the pressure, speed them up into turnovers to lead to baskets, it was great. It changed the momentum of the game.”
Canterino added, “I thought Dashaun Will, Christen James, Skevos Kouros, Isaiah McCray, those guys really picked it up. Those are kind of our unsung heroes a little bit … Those guys really stepped up and affected the way (Jefferson’s) guards played.”
The Red Devils also used their athleticism in the post to dominate down the stretch. Multiple Jefferson shots were swatted at the rim, and Leonard spent most of his second half cleaning up the boards and getting close looks at the basket. Of his 12 points, eight came in the second half and six of those were at the line.
The rebounding and turnovers were critical in fueling Memorial’s frenetic fast break.
“We’re so quick and athletic, any chance we can get a rebound, we have guys wide (for an outlet pass). When we have guys on the perimeter and we get some downhill looks at the rim, it’s really hard to stop us in transition,” Canterino said.
The Red Devils now head to the regional semifinal, set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Canton Memorial Fieldhouse. Campbell Memorial will take on the winner of this afternoon’s contest between Springfield and Cardinal Mooney.
“Our next goal is a regional championship,” Moore said. “Starting tomorrow in practice, we have to play at a regional championship-type level all the way into our game.”