The Toledo Rockets took on the surprise Miami RedHawks in the third quarterfinal match-up of the day in Cleveland. I say surprise Miami because after firing their coach, they are surprisingly good, not that it’s a surprise that this squad made the quarterfinals.
The game started with Miami playing a little better than the Rockets, led by Darrian Ringo and Nike Sibande. The score was 22-17 at the first TV timeout. However Sibande and the RedHawks cooled a bit and Toledo was able to get back into the game relatively quickly, and the halftime score was 30-29 Rockets.
The first half was played clean, with only 4 combined turnovers. Miami held a 22-19 rebounding edge that was negated by the 3 to 1 turnovers. Both teams shot relatively well. The low score was the result of a slow pace of play, with only 2 fast break points.
The second half started with the two teams trading blows early. The Rockets then slowly started to creep up the lead, reaching double digits as the clock started to become an issue at the 6 minute mark. The pace of play picked up a bit as Miami started feel the time crunch. A Tre’Shaun Fletcher ally-oop got the Rocket players off the bench, and shortly after there was a TV timeout where Toledo led 65-56. At this point the game felt like it was Toledo’s to lose.
A Darrian Ringo steal and finish changed momentum just that quickly. Toledo was playing sloppy and Miami was able to knock the lead down to 4, 65-61. Miami got a good look from three but was not able to hit.
With a minute to go, Miami played solid defense and forced Toledo into a ridiculously long three from Sanford, but as it rocketed off the rim (my apologies for the pun, it’s late for me) he was able to track down the rebound and knock down the two free throws. Miami did not go quietly into the night, as Nike Sibande hit a three and was down 69-66 with 25.5 seconds to go.
Fletcher, who went down with an injury a few moments earlier, came in to knock down one of two and put Toledo up by 4. Sibande then showed his age by quickly knocking down a three with 10.5 seconds to go.
After a Sanford miss, Miami had a chance to win with a three from Sibande, but it was not to be. Rockets won, 71-69.
Sanford had 21 for the Rockets, with Fletcher and and Luke Knapke adding 16 each.
Miami was led by Sibande with 20, who’s late game heroics made it a fun finish. Ringo added 19.
Toledo will take on the winner of Akron and Eastern Michigan.