ASHLAND — It was a celebration more than two decades in the making.
T.J. Pugh scored 18 points and Shelby won its first district championship since 1999 with a 64-44 win over Norwalk in the Division II Ashland district final Saturday night at Arrow Arena.
The Whippets (20-3) advance to next week’s Sweet 16 and will take on Lima Shawnee in the regional semifinals at 8 p.m. Thursday in Elida. Shawnee beat St. Marys Memorial 65-52 to win the Spencerville district title Saturday.
“The first time in 22 years, that’s something crazy,” Pugh said. “We’re happy about it.
“Our team is just a big family. We love to win and we love to play together. It’s just so easy when you’ve got a team like that.”
Norwalk (17-9) concentrated its efforts on slowing down Pugh, who scored 26 points in a district semifinal win over Huron earlier in the week. Pugh managed just four points in the first quarter, but junior guard Andre Hill hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored all eight of his points in the opening eight minutes as the Whippets built a 21-12 lead and never looked back.
“Andre hit some really big shots for us,” Shelby coach Nathon Loney said. “Andre was so good tonight and I just can’t praise him enough for how good he was defensively.
“Not only him, but everybody. Our defense was suffocating in that first half. Everybody was buying in and we were diving on the floor for loose balls. That’s what it takes to get here and win this game.”
The Whippets played perhaps their best defensive quarter of the season in the second. Norwalk struggled against Shelby’s pressure and managed just six points as the Whippets forged a 38-18 halftime lead.
“We didn’t play our best game tonight,” Norwalk coach Steve Gray said. “They’re very talented. They’re long, they’re athletic and we just didn’t play with the confidence we needed to to be successful tonight.”
The second half was largely a victory lap for the Whippets, who maintained a 20-point lead throughout the third and fourth quarters. Both coaches emptied their benches midway through the fourth period.
“It’s great for the Shelby community and the school,” said senior Cody Lantz, who scored 16 points. “I’m just glad our team could help do that for the community.
“We had goals set to make history this year … and right now we’re getting all of them.”
Jeremy Holloway added 10 points for the Whippets. Freshman Alex Bruskotter had seven.
Ian Minor led Norwalk with 14 points. Garrett Chapin and Carson Bauman each had seven.