CHILLICOTHE — There was much on the line Friday night when the Miami Trace Panthers took on the Washington Blue Lions for the third time this season.
The game, played at Southeastern High School, was for a Sectional championship and a trip to the Convocation Center in Athens.
The teams had split during the regular season, each winning on their respective home courts.
Friday, Washington had an 8-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
The scored was tied, 39-39 when Panther junior Seth Leach banked in a free throw with 2.6 seconds left.
He missed the second throw and Washington got the rebound and called for a time out with 2.1 seconds to play.
The Blue Lions had a shot attempt at the buzzer, but it fell short, leaving the Panthers with a 40-39 Sectional championship victory.
The Panthers, now 16-8 on the season, advance to the District tournament semifinals where they will play the winner of tonight’s game between Fairfield Union and Meigs. The Panthers last made a trip to the Convo in 2013, when they defeated Logan Elm, 48-41 in the District semifinals before falling to the Athens Bulldogs in the District title game, 64-54.
The Blue Lions end a fine season with a record of 17-7.
Washington senior Max Knisley, the District 14 Player of the Year as voted by the coaches, was the game’s leading scorer with 15 points.
Junior Griffin Shaw had nine for the Blue Lions (three three-point field goals) and junior Jarett Patton scored five.
For Miami Trace, sophomore Cameron Carter was the leading scorer with 11 points.
Junior Tyrae Pettiford had 10 points and junior DeAndre Pettiford scored nine points.
The Blue Lions had the better shooting night from the field, hitting 17 of 37 shots for 46 percent.
The Panthers made 14 of 38 shots for 37 percent.
The difference came at the free throw line, where the Blue Lions went 0 of 3, while the Panthers made 9 of 14 foul shot attempts for 64 percent.
“The game came down to a banked free throw,” Miami Trace head coach Rob Pittser said. “That’s what it came down to tonight and we were on the fortunate end of it.”
Pittser reflected on the start to the season for the Panthers.
“We had a tough start to the season,” Pittser said. “We played some heavyweights. We played Wilmington, we played Dublin Jerome. We were 2-4 there at one point. To get to where we are now, at 16-8, that’s a pretty good run right there.
“We’ve got a week now to get ready to play at the Convo,” Pittser said. “We’ll go scout that game (Meigs vs. Fairfield Union tonight at Logan High School) and then prepare for whoever our opponent is.”
“I felt like our guys’ effort was great,” Washington head coach Shannon Bartruff said. “When you are playing with the lead, you just have to take care of the basketball and execute, and we didn’t do that.
“We just didn’t make enough plays,” Bartruff said. “I’m going to take a lot of the blame coming down the stretch. I don’t feel as though I put my guys in good positions to make plays. It makes it a little bit tougher, especially when you walk into a locker room with a bunch of kids who obviously wanted to win this big county rivalry game and get the opportunity to go to the Convo. I’m putting the blame on me. You can’t expect to just hang on at the end. You’ve got to keep attacking and we didn’t do that.”
The teams traded threes to start the game.
There were five lead changes in the first quarter, indicative of the closely-contested nature of this battle between Fayette County rivals.
The Panthers took a 10-7 lead on a basket by Leach with just over two minutes to play in the initial period.
Shaw hit a three-point shot, tying the game, 10-10.
Kenny Upthegrove scored for Washington and Tyrae Pettiford answered for the Panthers, tying the game, 12-12 at the end of the first quarter.
The scoring for both teams dropped by half in the second quarter.
The Blue Lions were able to hit some back-door plays, however, an old-fashioned three-point play by Carter made it 18-17, Blue Lions with 3:55 to play in the first half.
The final three-plus minutes were futile, at best, for both teams as the score remained 18-17 at the intermission.
The Blue Lions would have their best eight-minute period of action in the third quarter.
Washington hit 7 of 12 field goal attempts to outscore the Panthers, 15-11.
The Blue Lions twice led by as many as five points in the third quarter.
The Panthers clawed back and tied the game, 26-26, on a three from Carter with 2:36 remaining in the third.
Knisley scored Washington’s final five points of the third quarter, sandwiched around a bucket from Carter to take a 33-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
When Patton stepped out and hit a three-pointer to start the fourth, the Blue Lions took their biggest lead of the game, the biggest by either team, 36-28 with 7:19 to play.
However, the Blue Lions would not score again until Shaw hit a three with 37 seconds to play, pulling the Blue Lions even at 39-39 with 37 seconds to play.
An 11-0 run by the Panthers, with scoring from Tyrae Pettiford (6 points), DeAndre Pettiford (3 points) and Carter (2 points) turned the tide for Miami Trace.
Shaw’s three set the stage for either overtime, or a heart-breaking (or thrilling) finish.
The Panthers called for a time out with 18.1 seconds remaining.
They came back out and ran the clock down to 2.6 seconds, when the Blue Lions were called for a foul, sending Leach to the line.
He made the first free throw, then a time out was called by the Blue Lions.
Leach missed the second attempt and the Blue Lions got a timeout with 2.1 seconds remaining.
They had to go the length of the floor, or at least get a pass in to near half-court and launch a shot from long range.
The Blue Lions got the ball to near half-court, but the shot came up just a little short.
Washington says thank-you and farewell to five seniors: Ryan Flora, Jacob Knisley, Cameron Eckles, C.J. Taylor and Max Knisley.
“Jake and Ryan, I’ve said it before, they show up every day and (work very hard) and they don’t get a lot of playing time,” Bartruff said. “I thought C.J. played solid tonight.
“Max and Cam, they’re kind of the heart and soul of this team,” Bartruff said. “They’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to this program. They were both first team all league and first team all-district. Max was consensus District player of the year (voted by the coaches).
“I want to thank our parents for all of their support throughout this season,” Bartruff said. “My coaching staff is just phenomenal.” Coaches along with Bartruff are: Brett Prince, Brent Knisley and Keith Eckles.
Pittser spoke a bit about Seth Leach.
“It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid,” Pittser said. “He’s very hard working and diligent. He stays after practice and puts in extra work. There he was at the free throw line with a chance to make a memory and he got one to go in. It was a neat situation for him and all of our kids.”
Miami Trace tournament ticket info
Tickets for Miami Trace’s District semifinal game (to be played at 8 p.m. Friday at the Convocation Center in Athens) will be on sale at the high school next week each day from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tickets are $6 each.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MT 12 5 11 12 — 40
W 12 6 15 6 — 39
MIAMI TRACE — DeAndre Pettiford 2 (1)-2-9; Cameron Carter 2 (1)-4-11; Skyler McDonald 0-0-0; Tyrae Pettiford 4-2-10; Mitchell Creamer 0-0-0; Seth Leach 1-1-3; Blake Pittser 2-0-4; Jacob Batson 0-0-0; Darby Tyree 0 (1)-0-3. TOTALS — 11 (3)-9-40. Free throw shooting: 9 of 14 for 64 percent. Three-point field goals: D. Pettiford, Carter, Tyree. Field goal shooting: 14 of 38 for 37 percent. Turnovers: 10.
WASHINGTON — Max Knisley 6 (1)-0-15; Jarett Patton 1 (1)-0-5; Kory Proby 1-0-2; C.J. Taylor 1-0-2; Kenny Upthegrove 2-0-4; Griffin Shaw 0 (3)-0-9; Cameron Eckles 1-0-2. TOTALS — 12 (5)-0-39. Free throw shooting: 0 of 3. Three-point field goals: Shaw, 3; Knisley, Patton. Field goal shooting: 17 of 37 for 46 percent. Turnovers: 9.
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1