FINDLAY - Carey looked like it was in trouble.
After a 15-win regular season, the Blue Devils were struggling against four-win Van Buren. The Black Knights had overcome an early 14-4 deficit to take a 36-34 halftime lead in the Division IV sectional semifinal at Findlay.
Then, things got worse for Carey. Van Buren scored the first five points of the second half, taking a 41-34 lead on a backdoor layup by Mac Williams with 5:44 left in the period.
Carey coach C.J. Kin called timeout, and decided to change some things up.
"The last time we played Van Buren, a couple of weeks ago, we played a halfcourt game," Kin said, referencing his squad's 70-41 win Feb. 9 over the Black Knights. "We were fine; we were able to defend them inside. Tonight, they just pounded the ball inside on us early.
"We probably could have been down more than seven," Kin said.
So Kin opted to go full court defense.
"Once we started doing that, they turned the ball over, we were able to get out and run a little bit more ... once things started going, we were pretty good.
Carey got three-point plays on back-to-back possessions - by Zach Boes and Jared Wentling - to pull within one, then broke ahead for good on a Bryan Powers jumper that put Carey up 46-45 with 4 minutes left in the third.
It was the beginning of what became an 18-0 Blue Devils run that stretched into the first minute of the fourth quarter. Carey cruised from there for an 81-54 win.
The Blue Devils (16-7) will take on Elmwood here in Friday's second game for the sectional title.
In Tuesday's first game, Fostoria got 19 points from Dominique Fuller and defeated Lakota 59-47. With the win, Fostoria advances to face No. 2 Liberty-Benton in the first game Friday.
In Carey's victory, Powers erupted for 26 points, while Justin Meek scored 17.
"Bryan can put points up when shots are falling, and he really attacked the rim, hit some outside shots," Kin said. "But defensively, he really was working so hard on the defensive end. That's where it starts."
Kin praised Meek's leadership in the second half..
"What I liked is he really got the team together late in the third, early in the fourth, and, as a senior he got us going," Kin said. "Defensively he was very active, and offensively he the ball to the right people."
Kin said the Blue Devils will get a test Friday against the Royals.
"Elmwood's big and physical," Kin said. "They're bigger than Van Buren and probably a little more physical, so that's something we really need to correct the next couple days."
Jared Wentling had 11 points and seven rebounds for the Blue Devils. Van Buren (4-19) got 14 points from Ross Adolph, who had a game-high 12 rebounds. He had 10 at the half.
In the Redmen win, FHS opened up a 12-3 advantage on Lakota, only to see the Raiders rally back with a 10-1 stretch that extended into the second quarter.
A layup by Darris McGown tied the game at 13 with 7:32 left in the first half.
But Fostoria responded with a 13-0 run of its own. A jumper by Fuller capped the run and put Fostoria up 26-13.
The Redmen led 28-17 at the half.
"Once we went on that 13-0 run in the second quarter, we were able to push that lead up to where it was a little more comfortable," Fostoria coach Rick Renz said.
Fostoria pushed its advantage to 18 points in the third quarter, going up 44-26 on a buzzer-beating jumper by Hunter Abell.
Fostoria's lead got as big as 20 in the fourth quarter.
"I would have liked to have seen us go with more of a killer instinct and put it away," Renz said. "But I think we went into protection mode, because in all honesty, we haven't been in this position. We've had a tough season."
Lakota rallied in the fourth, going on a 13-6 run to close out the game.
Lakota coach Tim Walsh said his team was without three key players, who were ill.
"All season, these kids I'm working with never do give up," Walsh said after his team capped its season at 3-20. "They play hard all the way to the end, whether good things go on or bad."
Kody Brewer had 16 points to lead the Raiders.
Fostoria (4-19) finished with four players scoring in double digits. Abell and Tony Mauricio each scored 11, while Adonis Cousin added 10.
"Our reward for all the hard work is Liberty-Benton, who's 21-1," Renz said. "You gotta hope that you can get a little bit of pressure on them. Hope they don't make their 3s and try to hold them to one shot."