Tri-Village boys basketball team fell short of a state championship finishing state runner-up concluding the season at 26-4 on the year. (Dale Barger Photo)

Tri-Village “D”enied State Championship, Finish State Runner-Up!

DAYTON – Tri-Village came up a game short of winning their 2nd OHSAA DIV Boys Basketball State Championship falling to Richmond Heights 50-29 in the title game.

It was their 4th trip to the final four: finishing runner-up in 1991, state semi-finalist in 2014, 30-0 and state champs in 2015 and state runner-up in 2022. 

The Patriots complete their season with a 26-4 record, 11-0 in the league and Western Ohio Athletic Conference Champions, Sectional Champs, District Champs and State Runner-up.

Over the last two years Tri-Village worked hard to develop their skill level and play together as a unit taking advantage of their length, physicality and athleticism to overwhelm many of their opponents, a formula that took them to final four and eventually the state title game.

In the championship they simply ran into a team who was faster, stronger and more athletic that eventually took its toll on the Patriots who trailed 20-15 early in the 3rd quarter and 30-20 heading into the final frame.  

The Patriots had to gamble defensively to get back in the game as the Spartans spread the floor in the 4th period.  It led to open shots on the perimeter with Richmond Heights taking advantage that eventually led to their final margin of victory 50-29.

“Richmond Heights is very good, very talented, very long, very athletic and skilled, they made a lot of Perimeter shots, and they were the better team today,” Tri-Village coach Josh Sagester said after the game.

“I thought our kids played hard, and gritty. For three and a half quarters, I thought we were giving ourselves an opportunity to maybe make that run where we get between six and 10 but it just didn’t happen and then we had a tough stretch late,” Sagester added.

Neither team was able to put the ball in the hoop early in the game.  Richmond Heights led 7-0 before 2 free throws from Wilson Suggs at the 2:10 mark got TV on the board that was followed by a baseline jumper from Layne Sarver to make the score 7-4.

The Spartans answered with a fielder, but Sarver answered on a drive to the basket with clear contact sending him to the floor with no call … but the bucket was good, and the PATS trailed 9-6 at the end of the 1st quarter.

In the 2nd quarter the Patriots struggled on offense but defensively was solid on contesting 1st shot attempts but 2nd chance shots on offensive rebounds started to work in favor of Richmond Heights.  

With the Patriots trailing 18-11 the Spartans tipped in a second chance shot at the buzzer go up 20-11 at the break.

TV came out aggressive to start the 3rd period and immediately paid dividends with Wilson Suggs getting a lay-up on a fast break followed by Sarver at the rim closing the gap 20-15.

The Spartans had answers with triples from De’Erick Barber and Jaiden Cox-Holloway surging ahead again 26-15.  

Tri-Village did their best to compete getting a fielder from Justin Finkbine and a trey from Sarver but still trailed 30-20 going into the final frame.

A 10-point deficit against an athletic team like Richmond Heights with 8 minutes to play is nearly insurmountable.

“We struggled to get the ball into an area where we could initiate our offense due to match-ups and size,” Sagester stated.

Clearly in control the Spartans spread the floor in the 4th quarter with the Patriots trying to pressure and trap to generate turnovers led to a few points, it also left them exposed to open shooters on the perimeter with Cox-Holloway draining two straight triples making the situation even dire.

A triple by Josh Scantland and buckets by Suggs, Finkbine and Sarver wasn’t nearly enough as Richmond Heights went on to win the game 50-29.

The Spartans on their 4th straight trip to the final four claimed their 1st DIV State Championship.

Playing a talented Richmond Heights team was something the Patriots hadn’t seen before despite bolstering their non-league schedule to prepare them for uncomfortable situations. 

“I don’t know that there’s a lot of teams walking around Southwest Ohio, as good as Richmond Heights. I thought we put our kids in a position to be successful today with what we played against this year, but they were pretty good,” Sagester said in the press conference.

In fact, there aren’t many teams better in the entire state in any division.  The Spartans boast wins against Cleveland St. Edwards who was a final four team in Division 1 and beat a total of 7, D1 schools that advanced to the sweet 16. 

Take nothing away from Richmond Heights, a win would have been monumental, and take nothing away from Tri-Village who competed hard till the end, there is no shame in finishing runner-up.

“This has been an unbelievable weekend, an unbelievable tournament run for our program, our kids, our community and we’re extremely proud of our kids,” Sagester would say.  

“We all know one game doesn’t make a season, certainly we’re disappointed with the loss, as I told my kids in the locker room, but as a coach I’m sorry we couldn’t send our seniors out with a state championship. Only one team in Division four gets to conclude their season with a win and what pains me most is we didn’t pull that off for them and this is the last time that I’ll coach a special group of guys,” Sagester stated.

It’s the last time in a Patriot uniform for seniors Luke Drew, Jason Hale, Ty Linkous, Layne Sarver and Josh Scantland.

“This is the first senior class I’ve had since I’ve been back as coach and they bought in hook, line and sinker, continuing the tradition and legacy of what Tri-Village basketball is all about. So, they will always hold a special place in my heart,” Sagester praised. 

“They took me in and realized that coach wasn’t all bad they worked hard at their game, on their body and put in a lot of time and you get what you deserve. These kids deserve success and certainly had it this season and last season. That will certainly pay dividends as they pursue other endeavors after they graduate,” Sagester added.

“It’s been a great run and something I’ll never forget; a great group of friends and fans that have  supported us all year long.  It’s been crazy for us, and all the memories created is something I’ll always be grateful,” Layne Sarver stated.

There will be plenty of Patriots players returning with the state runner-up experience which should serve as motivation to take it one step further.

The Patriots will return starters Dalton Delong, Justin Finkbine, Wilson Suggs along with key contributors to the varsity team in Seth Cook and Tanner Printz.  They also include guys dressing up on an undefeated JV team; Camden Cook, Logan Call, Reed Wehr and Braden Keating who will be looking to pick-up where this team left off.  

Coach Sagester met with his current players via a zoom call two years ago due to covid and at that time discussed his vision and the goals for the team and guys who doubted aren’t doubting now. 

“We established “The Gold Standard”, set expectations and goals of what we wanted to become as a program and team.  It’s doesn’t change after this season and we want to do this yearly.  It’s easier said than done and lots of things must happen and fall into place.  But we have kids returning who have this experience and can learn from it.  The take away from this game is we’ve got to improve our skill level, our ability to dribble, pass, shoot and obviously get physically stronger,” Sagester concluded.

Not many teams make it to the final four let alone win a state championship.  Finishing as state runner-up is pretty good and the school and community is proud of what they accomplished.   

The 2021-22 team provided a roadmap of what success looks like.  Now it’s time for returning players and underclassmen to forge their own journey, after all they have the “Gold Standard” to guide them.

Patriots were "D"enied a state title but Layne Sarver did everything he could to try and help his team overcome a very good Richmond Heights team. Sarver scored 13 in the game. (Dale Barger Photo)
Justin Finkbine battles inside for bucket in state championship game. (Dale Barger Photo)
Sr. Josh Scantland fires up his last points in his career a triple, but not enough as the Patriots fall to the Spartans in state championship game. (Dale Barger Photo)
Jr. Wilson Suggs ran into a tough defender on this play, he and his team were held to their lowest scoring game all season long in state championship game. (Dale Barger Photo)
Coach Sagester tries to rally his team late during a media timeout while a sea of red white and blue fans look on in the background. (Dale Barger Photo)

Dale Barger / Sports Editor

Dale Barger is a lifelong sports enthusiast and has covered high school athletics for nearly 20 years in Southwest Ohio and now becomes sports editor for Darke County now. For 18 years Dale has been a sportswriter for The Daily Advocate and has been published in online sorts magazines and conference websites. Dale is also an accomplished photographer who has captured thousands of athletes in action over the years. Dale is a member of The Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association and was a 2019 recipient of the Ohio High School Athletic Association Southwest District Media Service Award. Dale lives on a 72-acre farm outside of New Madison, Ohio and is married to Rita Ann (Fourman) Barger and together they have two sons and three grandkids. If you don’t see Dale at a sporting event you might catch him following his other passion – photographing nature and wildlife. Contact Darke County Now Editor Media Sports Editor Dale Barger at dbarger@darkecountynow.com.

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