With the postgame celebration underway and his teammates taking turns cutting the net, Aaron Cincione ran up to Grandview Heights High School boys basketball coach Ray Corbett with a big smile.
The sixth-seeded Bobcats had just upset third-seeded Johnstown 54-49 in a Division III district final March 8 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The Johnnies had won the previous three meetings, including 46-37 in the second round last season.
"We beat our kryptonite, coach!" Cincione shouted. "We're Superman now!"
While no superpowers were needed, the Bobcats did put forth a powerful effort in winning their first district championship since 2016. It was their sixth overall, all coming in Division III.
"That's No. 6," said Corbett, whose team improved to 19-6. "I was so proud of the way we responded.
"This group has done a phenomenal job of overcoming obstacles. I was proud of them two weeks ago, and we're pretty happy right now."
Two of the obstacles were the health of two starters: senior point guard Cincione and junior forward Luke Lachey. Cincione was out with a back injury and Lachey had mononucleosis when Johnstown defeated Grandview 56-35 on Dec. 29 in the championship game of the Bobcat Holiday Classic. Both played key roles in the district final.
Cincione was 4-for-4 on free throws in the fourth quarter. Lachey led all scorers with 20 points and had seven rebounds and three steals, including a half-court theft that resulted in a dunk with 3 seconds remaining to put an exclamation point on the victory.
"I knew (Johnstown forward Owen Hazelbaker) was struggling dribbling the ball up-court all night," Lachey said. "I thought I would get some pressure, and then the ball was loose and I took it in."
Hazelbaker had 11 points in the first half as the Johnnies led 30-24. However, he scored only four points in the second half as the Bobcats seized control.
"We just stuck our biggest guys on their biggest guys and we played hard the whole time," Lachey said. "We had to make sure we doubled-down on Owen and make him work for everything."
The Bobcats were 6-for-8 on free throws in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
Manny Day scored 16 points and Brian Collier added 10.
"We knew we had to come out and run our stuff and get the offensive boards," Day said. "We had to come out and be aggressive and we were able to do that."
Grandview played Oregon Stritch in a regional semifinal March 13 at Bowling Green. The winner advanced to a regional final against Coldwater or Willard on Saturday, March 16, at the same site.
Coldwater was 17-9 after defeating Ottawa-Glandorf 70-67 in a district final March 9 at Lima Senior. Willard was 22-3 after defeating Upper Sandusky 60-36 in a district final March 9 at Norwalk.
The regional champion advances to a state semifinal March 21 at Ohio State.
The Bobcats reached the district final by defeating second-seeded Worthington Christian 64-52 in a semifinal March 5 at Dublin Jerome.
Collier scored 22 points with Lachey and Day adding 13 and 12, respectively. Charlie James came off the bench to score nine.
"This has been a total-team effort all year," Corbett said. "We had so many kids contribute for us. Brian Collier only scored 10 (against Johnstown), but you always have to keep an eye on him. He had 22 against Worthington Christian and probably could have drop-kicked the ball through the hoop.
"We're going (to Bowling Green) but we'll worry about that later. We want to savor this (district title) for a day or so."