The Chillicothe Junior High eighth-grade boys basketball team is heading to Sectional.
"The eighth-grade class has been fun to be with," coach Kevin Yates said. "They were successful last year as seventh graders and we were really looking forward to having them this year. They are fun to coach, fun to be around, and we try to treat each other like family."
The team earned a first-round bye in the home Regional before beating Green Valley Midwest Central, 44-43, Jan. 26.
The team won the Regional on a 34-18 decision over Dunlap Valley Middle School Jan. 29.
"Both teams played us very tough," Yates said. "Green Valley's point guard was a difficult match-up for us, and we had a difficult time finishing plays and making shots. Fortunately, our bench players came up big as we ran into foul trouble and made just enough shots to get the win.
The team then beat Dunlap Valley in a defensive masterpiece.
"I was very happy with our defensive effort against Dunlap Valley," Yates said. "They have been a good team for several years now and to be able to hold them scoreless in the first quarter and to just score eight points in the second half shows we had an outstanding defensive game."
The first quarter of the championship game was a defensive battle that put Chillicothe ahead, 2-0.
Under a minute into the second quarter, Dunlap tied the game and then went up 4-3 less than a minute later.
After Dunlap took an 8-3 lead, Alec McElyea cut it to 8-5 on a jumper.
The lead was cut to 8-7 on a put-in at the hoop by CJ Cokel.
Chillicothe took an 11-10 lead into halftime when, in the final seconds, Cameron Owdom scored under the basket.
After a close opening half, the Mustangs began to run away with the game in the third quarter thanks to timely passes and offensive rebounds.
Following the third quarter, CJH led 24-12.
In the final quarter, the defense clamped down and the offense kept racking up points to ensure a Regional title.
The team next plays at 6 p.m. Feb. 6 at Farmington Central.
"Our sectional match-up will be very difficult," Yates said. "We will face the winner of Farmington and Stronghurst West Central. We lost to Farmington in a close game earlier this year.
"We will need to keep improving on the defensive end of the floor and work to get easy baskets offensively."