CHILLICOTHE — Survive and advance.
That’s what the postseason is all about.
And that’s just what the Washington Blue Lions did Tuesday night.
After building a 18-point lead with just over two minutes to play in the third quarter, the Blue Lions had to hold off a rally by the Circleville Tigers to claim a 53-48 Sectional semifinal victory.
The Blue Lions (now 8-15 on the season) will return to the Larry Jordan gymnasium on the campus of Southeastern High School Saturday night to take on the No. 1 seeded Miami Trace Panthers.
The winner of that game will advance to the District semifinals at the Convocation Center at Ohio University in Athens for a game on Thursday, March 2 at 6:15 p.m.
The Blue Lions had three players in double figures, led by senior Kory Proby and sophomore Evan Upthegrove, each with 13 points.
Sophomore Richard Burns Jr. had 10 points for Washington.
Junior Cameron Banks and senior Jordan Taylor shared game-high scoring honors for Circleville, both with 15 points.
Junior Seth Risner added seven for the Tigers.
The Blue Lions began the game with a 5-0 lead with a two-point basket by Burns and a trey by sophomore Dillon Steward.
After the initial basket by Banks, Proby hit back-to-back buckets to give the Blue Lions a 9-3 lead, prompting a time out from Tigers’ head coach Tyler Cassidy.
The next couple of minutes of the game featured three turnovers and two missed shots by the Blue Lions and one Circleville turnover and four missed shots.
Burns scored to make it 11-3, but the Tigers hit the final two field goals of the first quarter to make it 11-7, Blue Lions after one.
The Blue Lions held onto their lead throughout the second quarter.
The Tigers did cut the deficit to one point on a trifecta by Jacob Rhymer.
After a basket by Proby, the Tigers tied the game, 13-13 on a three from Taylor.
Burns scored again and Evan Upthegrove hit a three, which was followed by a basket from Proby for a 7-0 run and a 20-13 Blue Lion lead with 3:55 to play in the second quarter.
Kenny Upthegrove scored the final basket of the half to give the Blue Lions a 22-18 halftime lead.
The Blue Lions had a good start to the third quarter, separating themselves from the Tigers with a 16-2 run.
Washington seemed in good shape at the time with a 38-20 lead with two minutes to play in the third quarter.
The Tigers began their comeback bid by ending the third on an 8-2 run to close to within 12, 40-28, with eight minutes of action remaining.
Senior Jarett Patton hit a three-pointer for the Blue Lions to start the fourth.
Circleville pulled to within 10 points, 45-35, with 4:07 to play in the game.
A three by Banks drew the Tigers to within seven, 47-40, with 1:25 remaining to be played.
First Burns and then Evan Upthegrove, hit both ends of a one-and-one to make it 51-40 with 50 seconds left.
Taylor hit a three and after a Blue Lion turnover, he canned another trey to make it 51-46 with 27 seconds remaining.
On the second three, Taylor was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Circleville got the rebound and scored for a five-point possession, cutting Washington’s lead to 51-48 with 18 seconds to go.
Washington went to the foul line, but missed the front end of the one-and-bonus.
Circleville then went down and disdained the three-point shot for a look under the basket. Somehow, the Tigers missed two shots inside. The Tigers fouled with 2.7 seconds left.
Kenny Upthegrove went to the line and made both throws for the final, 53-48.
“It got a little more interesting than we would have hoped,” Washington head coach Shannon Bartruff said. “We just got out of sorts. You get in situations where, they make a shot and it’s still a double-digit lead. We don’t have to be in a hurry to get the ball in bounds and make some crazy pass and we did that three or four possessions. Guys were out of their normal spots on the press break.
“In our half-court offense, we just threw some terrible passes,” Bartruff said. “We have to learn from situations like that. We need to spread the floor, make the easy pass and you’ll get layups out of it. Then we were dribbling too much. Trying to make passes that aren’t there, drive into spots that aren’t really open, instead of just moving the ball when you know they are going to come and double. Then you’ll have the advantage of four on three or three on two in those possessions.
“We didn’t do a very good job coming down the stretch,” Bartruff said. “Luckily, we played hard enough for about the first 28 minutes, that we built a big enough lead that the shots they made didn’t come back to bite us.
“They can shoot it,” Bartruff said. “I wanted to pressure them as much as we could, but, I was a little leery in certain situations, if we don’t get to a close-out, out of pressure, they’re going to get a wide-open three. That happened some there in the fourth quarter.
“We had a feeling they were going to zone us tonight,” Bartruff said. “Our high-low stuff kind of caused them some problems in the first quarter and second quarter and even into the third quarter.”
Now, it’s a third meeting on the season with Miami Trace.
The Panthers just won the regular season ending meeting with Washington, 61-49 last Saturday.
Back on Jan. 31, Miami Trace held on for a 63-60 win at home over the Blue Lions.
“It seems like, I would have to look back at the records, but the last three or four years, we’ve played them three times,” Bartruff said. “At least a couple of those years. It’s gone back and forth. They’ve had the edge right now the last couple of games.
“All you can ask for is another opportunity,” Bartruff said. “Our kids will be fired up. We’ll have a couple days to prep and get ready for Saturday night against a great team.
“A lot of people get lost in it being a rivalry,” Bartruff said. “They lose sight of the fact that Miami Trace is one of the best teams in the District, in our Sectional. They’re 19-3 for a reason. They knocked off Vinton County, they beat Unioto, they beat Wilmington, they beat Chillicothe twice.
“They’re a very seasoned basketball team,” Bartruff said. “Coach (Rob) Pittser is doing a phenomenal job and we’ll have our hands full.”
Miami Trace plays Washington Saturday at 7 p.m. at Southeastern High School.
Check with your favorite high school this week during school hours for pre-sale tickets.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 11 11 18 13 — 53
C 7 11 10 20 — 48
WASHINGTON — Dillon Steward 0 (1)-3-6; Jarett Patton 1 (1)-0-5; Evan Upthegrove 0 (3)-4-13; Kory Proby 5-3-13; Kenny Upthegrove 2-2-6; Richard Burns Jr. 4-2-10. TOTALS — 12 (5)-14-53. Free throw shooting: 14 of 20 for 70 percent. Three-point field goals: E. Upthegrove, 3; Steward, Patton. Combined field goal shooting: 17 of 35 for 49 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 5 of 10 for 50 percent. Turnovers: 18.
CIRCLEVILLE — Shaun Porter 0-0-0; Brandon Burroughs 1-0-2; Dalton Lynn 0-0-0; Kaleb Spangler 0-0-0; Cameron Banks 4 (2)-1-15; Jordan Taylor 3 (3)-0-15; Jacob Rhymer 0 (1)-0-3; Rickey Clifton 0-0-0; Webster Marcella 0-0-0; Seth Risner 3-1-7; Jay Styers 0 (2)-0-6. TOTALS — 11 (8)-2-48. Free throw shooting: 2 of 5 for 40 percent. Three-point field goals: Taylor, 3; Banks, 2; Styers, 2; Rhymer. Combined field goal shooting: 19 of 42 for 45 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 8 of 20 for 40 percent. Turnovers: 20.
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1