CHILLICOTHE — The Washington Blue Lions and Miami Trace Panthers met for the third time this season, this time in the Division II Sectional finals at Southeastern High School Saturday night before a large crowd at the Larry Jordan Gymnasium.
Whomever it was who first said it’s hard to beat a team three times in a season certainly knew what they were talking about.
With a trip to the District tournament at the Convocation Center at Ohio University in Athens on the line, not to mention the pride factor, the rivalry factor, the Blue Lions (having lost previously to Miami Trace, 63-60 and 61-49) gave the Panthers everything they wanted, and more.
In the end, the Panthers were able to come away with a 44-37 victory.
Miami Trace, improving to 20-3, will take on the Athens Bulldogs in the District semifinals at the Convocation Center at Ohio University in Athens Thursday at 6:15 p.m.
In the other half of the upper bracket, the No. 2 seed Fairfield Union with take on No. 3 seed Chillicothe Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Convo.
On Saturday, March 4, the No. 1 seed Vinton County will face No. 4 seed Waverly at 7 p.m. and the No. 2 seed Unioto will take on the No. 6 seed Logan Elm at 8:45 p.m.
Miami Trace senior Blake Pittser was the game’s leading scorer Saturday with 19 points. He hit three three-point shots and went 8 of 8 from the free throw line.
Senior DeAndre Pettiford scored 12 points, including one three-point basket. He had three steals.
Senior Tyrae Pettiford had six points, including one slam dunk. He had two of the Panthers’ six blocked shots.
Junior Darby Tyree scored four points and was the game leader with nine rebounds.
Junior Cameron Carter scored three points.
For the Blue Lions, who finish the 2016-17 season with a record of 8-16, senior Jarett Patton led with 13 points. He hit two threes and had four rebounds.
Sophomore Dillon Steward scored nine points, including one three-pointer. He also had two rebounds and two assists.
Senior Kenny Upthegrove scored five points and had four rebounds.
Sophomore Richard Burns Jr. had five points and two rebounds.
Sophomore Evan Upthegrove had five points, including one three and four rebounds and senior Kory Proby scored two points and led the Blue Lions with seven rebounds. He also had two assists, one steal and blocked one shot.
“It is a distinct privilege,” Miami Trace head coach Rob Pittser said of his team making a second consecutive appearance at the Convo. I can’t tell you how many times teams I played on finished second in the league or second in the Sectional. It is a special opportunity for these kids to get to do that.
“Coach (Shannon) Bartruff’s teams, I don’t care how many times you play them, in a month, in a week, in a year, they are always going to be prepared,” Pittser said. “They’re always going to be ready for the challenge and boy, they were tonight.
“Shannon had a great game plan,” Pittser said. “Schematically, he did exactly what I thought he needed to do. It’s a tournament environment and that enhances and brings a lot of extra mental anxiety. Then, when you’re playing against your rival and that rival happens to be really, really well-coached, it just layers the adversity on you.
“We have a lot of kids that have played a lot of basketball,” Pittser said. “I think that resiliency and that determination helped us later in the fourth quarter when we needed to get some stops and needed to get some buckets. Fortunately, we made some free throws and got a multi-possession lead and were able to hang on to it.”
The real difference in scoring came at the free throw line.
Miami Trace made nine two-point baskets, while Washington made eight.
The Blue Lions made five three-point field goals to four for the Panthers.
At the foul line, the Panthers converted 14 of 18 attempts for 77 percent to 6 of 14 for the Blue Lions for 42 percent for an eight-point difference in a game with a seven-point final margin.
“I was disappointed in the way we shot the ball,” Pittser said. “Especially in the first half. We had a ton of great looks. Execution-wise, we were in a great place. It’s just, the shots we were getting just weren’t going down.”
“The kids battled,” Washington head coach Shannon Bartruff said. “I felt like they executed the game plan pretty well.
“If we make four free throws there, we’re up five or six points with four or five minutes to go,” Bartruff said. “That could have changed the entire complexion of the game. I think we missed the front end of a one-and-one and I think we missed two free throws on a shooting foul. You have to cash in on those opportunities against a team like this.
“They made some plays down the stretch and they made their free throws down the stretch,” Bartruff said. “The kids’ effort was great. We basically guarded them in man the majority of the game. If you hold a team like this to 44 points, I like our odds. I thought we rebounded well. I didn’t feel like we turned the ball over a whole lot until that (crucial) time when you can’t have turnovers. A couple of our turnovers ended up being points for them at the other end.”
It was a slow start for both teams with Miami Trace breaking the ice with a pair of free throws from Tyrae Pettiford with 5:46 to play in the first quarter.
Kory Proby tied the game with a basket at the 4:35 mark of the first.
Pittser hit a three with 4:09 to play in the first and he scored again late in the quarter to give the Panthers a 7-2 lead.
The Blue Lions had their best quarter of the game in the second.
Patton began the frame with a three and Kenny Upthegrove scored, tying the game, 7-7 with 6:39 to play in the first half.
Pittser then hit another three and Tyrae Pettiford had a slam dunk to put Miami Trace back into the lead, 12-7.
Washington then went on a 9-0 run with scoring from Burns, Steward, Patton and Steward again, this time with a three to give the Blue Lions a 16-12 lead with 2:06 to play in the half.
The Panthers then tied the game on their next two possession.
Burns converted the old-fashioned three-point play to give Washington a 19-16 lead.
DeAndre Pettiford hit a three-point shot just before the buzzer, sending the game into the break tied, 19-19.
The teams exchanged threes to start the third with first Pittser for the Panthers then Patton connecting for the Blue Lions.
DeAndre Pettiford then proceeded to score six unanswered points for Miami Trace for a 28-22 lead that prompted a Blue Lion time out.
Kenny Upthegrove cut the margin in half with a three.
DeAndre Pettiford hit a free throw and Steward had a steal and layup to make it 29-27, Panthers with 2:21 remaining in the third period.
Pittser hit two free throws and Patton scored to make it 31-29. Patton was fouled on the play, converting the free throw to make it 31-30 with 1:31 to play in the third. There was no further scoring in the final 91 seconds of the third, fixing the score at 31-30, Panthers with eight minutes to play.
Steward hit a pair of early free throws to give Washington its first lead since late in the second quarter, 32-31.
Washington held that one-point lead from the 7:41 mark until Evan Upthegrove hit a three with 4:19 to play, giving Washington a 35-31 lead.
The Panthers got a basket from Tyree and then another from Tyrae Pettiford to tie the game, 35-35 with 3:12 left to play.
Carter made two free throws with 2:28 to play and Pittser sank two from the line with 1:26 to play, giving the Panthers a 39-35 lead.
Pittser made two free throws at the 1:06 mark and Carter made one with 37 seconds left to give Miami Trace a 42-35 lead.
Patton made two free throws with 11 seconds left and Pittser sank a pair of free throws with 9.2 seconds left to make the final 44-37.
Washington says thank you and farewell to four seniors: Kenny Upthegrove, Kory Proby, Jarett Patton and Griffin Shaw.
“It was tough luck for Griffin,” Bartruff said. “He was kind of banged up all year. That hurt us all year, not having a 6-5 kid that can rebound, that we can play in the post, that can shoot the three. He was averaging 13-14 points a game and maybe five or six rebounds. He was heartbroken in (the locker room).
“Kenny Upthegrove’s been tremendous all year,” Bartruff said. “He’s probably our second or third-leading scorer. He’s probably our first or second-leading rebounder. He’s fearless. I told him the other night before we played Circleville how proud I am of him. He has to handle the ball, he never comes off the floor, he has to guard the other team’s best player almost every night and he never complained. Kenny’s not a vocal leader. I feel like his leadership is by example, by being there for his teammates.
“Jarett Patton, he can get hot and knock down some shots for us,” Bartruff said. “He’s a tough, tough competitor. He’s probably our leading rebounder, by the time everything is said and done. Jarett had a nice season for us.
“Kory Proby, he’s not blessed with a lot of offensive skill, but he gets everything out of his God-given talent,” Bartuff said. “He just battles hard. This has been kind of a tough season for us, obviously, wins and losses-wise, but Kory never wavered. He’s had this team’s back since day one. His leadership has been tremendous.
“I love all those seniors to death,” Bartruff said. “It’s tough in the locker room. I just told the guys how much I love them and told the young guys to kind of bottle that feeling up. Hopefully they don’t have to go through it until a little bit of a run through the tournament. In the locker room, our guys were upset. The younger guys felt the weight of the moment and had an opportunity to say a few things to the seniors and tell them how much they love them.
“I want to thank all of our fans this year,” Bartruff said. “For only being an eight-win team, our (fans) really come out and support us. My coaching staff, I want to thank them. Keith Eckles and Brent Knisley and Brett Prince, I couldn’t do this without them.”
Tickets on sale at MTHS
Tickets for the Miami Trace boys District semifinal game against Athens, to be played Thursday at the Convocation Center at 6:15 p.m., will be on sale today and Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and Thursday from 9 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.
Tickets are $6 each and the school gets to keep a portion of the proceeds from all pre-sale tickets.
The Miami Trace Lady Panthers will face Chillicothe Wednesday at Southeastern High School at 7 p.m. for the District championship.
Tickets are on sale for that game today and Wednesday at the high school. Tickets are $6 each and the school gets to keep a portion of the proceeds from the pre-sale tickets.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MT 7 12 12 13 — 44
W 2 17 11 7 — 37
MIAMI TRACE — Blake Pittser 1 (3)-8-19; DeAndre Pettiford 4 (1)-1-12; Tyrae Pettiford 2-2-6; Darby Tyree 2-0-4; Cameron Carter 0-3-3; Seth Leach 0-0-0; Mitchell Creamer 0-0-0; Skyler McDonald 0-0-0. TOTALS — 9 (4)-14-44. Free throw shooting: 14 of 18 for 77 percent. Three-point field goals: Pittser, 3; D. Pettiford. Combined field goal shooting: 13 of 41 for 31 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 4 of 17 for 23 percent. Rebounds: 22 (8 offensive). Assists: 6. Steals: 9. Blocks: 6. Turnovers: 10. Personal fouls: 13. Bench points: 3. Second chance points: 2. Points off turnovers: 14.
WASHINGTON — Jarett Patton 2 (2)-3-13; Dillon Steward 2 (1)-2-9; Kenny Upthegrove 1 91)-5; Richard Burns Jr. 2-1-5; Kory Proby 1-0-2. TOTALS — 8 (5)-6-37. Free throw shooting: 5 of 12 for 41 percent. Three-point field goals; Patton, 2; Steward, K. Upthegrove. Combined field goal shooting: 13 of 35 for 37 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 4 of 12 for 41 percent. Rebounds: 24 (5 offensive). Assists: 9. Steals: 3. Blocks: 2. Turnovers: 17. Personal fouls: 12. Bench points: 9. Second chance points: 4. Points off turnovers: 8.
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1