DAYTON -- As a Houston shooter went to the free throw line to put the finishing touches on Friday's 62-56 boys' basketball Division IV district final win over Lockland at University of Dayton Arena, Panthers sophomore Dylan Wedlock pulled his jersey over his head and hid his face.
"It's a tough way to end it," Wedlock said.
Lockland, a .500 team entering the postseason, had dreams of winning a seventh consecutive district championship, with nary a senior in the starting lineup. But the Panthers dug themselves a 14-point first-quarter deficit then suffered second-half shooting woes after they took their only lead at 31-29 on a Wedlock 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
"I felt like we got a little too excited when we finally went ahead," said Wedlock, who led the Panthers with 18 points."I don't think we kept our heads."
Houston (18-5) bolted to a 15-1 lead during the first six minutes against Lockland (13-11) as Jacob Benanzer hit a pair of 3-pointers on the way to a game-high 27 points. But it wasn't too big of a hole for the Panthers. They rallied to take their lead with a 9-0 run.
"We had a slow start and then we had to build up to play," Wedlock said."It took a lot out of us. And they were nice shooting and real smart and hit some clutch shots, and we didn't make ours."
Houston responded with a 12-3 run to end the third and pushed the lead back to seven. Lockland, which shot 27.8 percent (10-for-36) from the field after the break following a 50-percent shooting first half, cut it to 43-40 on a basket by Wedlock with 5:58 to go.
"The bottom line is, we had the shots and we missed them," Lockland coach Paul Andrews said."We made a nice comeback, but it was an uphill battle."
Houston answered Wedlock's score by hitting three straight baskets. The Wildcats shot 61.1 percent (11-for-18) in the second half and finished 16 of 20 from the free-throw line. Lockland missed 13 shots from the line.
"They have five seniors who play well together and we're young, and this is a big stage," Andrews said."But we got hot late in the year because we have good young talent."
Two free throws by Wedlock with 32.2 seconds remaining cut the lead to six, but the Panthers' press could not produce another Lockland field goal despite forcing a pair of Houston turnovers.