The third meeting of the season between the Washington Blue Lions and McClain Tigers varsity boys basketball teams will be remembered for a long time.
Played Saturday night at Southeastern High School before a packed (but not sold-out) crowd, it was nothing short of a barn-burner.
McClain, with 10 seniors on the team and seven seniors seeing action in the game, was able to hold off Washington (with just one senior), 73-70.
McClain beat the Blue Lions when the teams played at Greenfield on Jan. 14, 61-53. In that game, McClain made 22 of 28 shots from the foul line to 3 of 5 for Washington.
In the first meeting of the long-time rivals at Washington High School on Dec. 7, the Tigers won, 52-49. Free throw shooting was a negligible factor in that game, with McClain hitting 5 of 14 and Washington make 4 of 5.
One player for each team especially stood out with tremendous efforts Saturday night.
For the Blue Lions, senior Reico Colter poured in 39 points and led his team with four assists and four steals.
For the Tigers, it was Bryson Badgley who notched a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds.
McClain won the rebounding battle, 31-19, including 15 offensive rebounds to five for Washington.
Another area in which McClain excels is getting to the free throw line.
In a game decided by three points, McClain made 19 of 34 shots from the foul line to 7 of 12 for the Blue Lions.
Washington junior Tanner Lemaster scored 14 points and sophomore John Wall scored 10.
For McClain, Kendyll Toney scored 18 points and Braden Wright scored 10. Toney was 8 of 11 from the foul line and Wright went 8 of 14 from the stripe.
It should be noted that the game was played without incident, despite the intensity of the teams and the large and often very loud, partisan crowds for both sides.
The Blue Lions took a 5-2 lead with scores from Lemaster and Colter.
The game was tied, 7-7 and McClain’s Evann Mischal and Washington’s Colter scored late in the period.
McClain led 13-9, but the first of two four-point plays by Colter (a three-point bucket, a foul called on McClain and a made free throw) tied the game, 13-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The Tigers exerted themselves and seemed double-quick on the offensive glass.
Toney made a free throw, missed the next and McClain got the rebound and put back.
After a Washington miss, McClain missed its first shot, then grabbed the rebound for another put back to make it 18-13.
Badgley hit back-to-back threes to take a 9-point lead, 24-15 with 5:30 to play in the half.
A bit later in the quarter, McClain went to the line and missed two throws. Again, however, they grabbed the offensive board and scored.
With the Tigers leading by 10 (29-19), Colter had his second four-point play of the half to make it a six-point game.
McClain was soon up by 10 again before Wall sank a three.
After a Blue Lion turnover, McClain scored the final basket of the half to take a 35-26 lead into the locker room.
After employing a 2-3 zone and later a man-to-man defense, the Blue Lions changed things up to start the second half.
This quickly paid dividends for the Blue Lions as the pressure forced turnovers that Washington turned into a 9-0 run with scoring from Lemaster, Wall and Raleigh Haithcock. Just like that, the game was tied, 35-35 just one minute into the third quarter.
Badgley then scored the next two buckets for McClain. Unofficially, Badgley, who surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career during the game, made 5 of 10 shots from three-point range and 8 of 12 from two-point range for a combined 13 of 22 shooting for 59 percent.
The game stayed in the four-to-six point range in favor of McClain for the next few possessions.
By the end of the third quarter, it as 51-41, with the Tigers in the lead.
Washington had a 7-2 run to begin the fourth quarter.
With another three from Badgley, McClain enjoyed an 8-point lead.
Wall hit another three and Colter scored again to pull the Blue Lions to within two points, 58-56 with about four and a half minutes remaining in the game.
McClain led 63-58 with three minutes to go.
Lemaster scored to make it 63-61.
After a technical foul was called on Washington, Wright made four free throws and scored on the ensuing possession to lead 69-61.
Wall had an offensive rebound and scored for the Blue Lions.
As the time wound down to a precious few seconds, the back and forth battle continued.
Colter scored with 26.7 seconds left to make it 72-68.
McClain made one of two free throws with 6.8 seconds left.
Colter was fouled and made two of three from the line to make it 73-70 with 3.3 seconds left.
McClain missed two final free throw attempts.
Washington tried a long, desperation three-point shot that would have miraculously tied the game. However, the ball hit netting that was bundled high up in the rafters, ending this dramatic, action-filled game.
“The stuff we talked about coming into the week that I really thought we had buttoned up and were ready for, is what got us beat,” Washington head coach Shannon Bartruff said. “They beat us on the glass and, unfortunately, we lost our composure.”
Bartruff talked about his team’s two technical fouls, something that has been at times hurtful to the Blue Lions down the stretch this season.
“It’s a District semifinal game with two teams that are league opponents, playing for the third time,” Bartruff said. “Normally, I feel like it takes showing an official up, or cussing and a pretty belligerent cuss, to get a technical.
“Both officials who came up to me and told me what the T’s were for, one was for looking at the official and the other was for saying, ‘I got all ball,’” Bartruff said. “I mean, to me, in a game like that, of that magnitude…it is what it is.
“The sad thing about it is, those situations this year where that’s happened, it hasn’t just been the tech, it’s been on top of a foul, so it’s four free throws and the ball,” Bartruff said. “You come down to a one-possession game and obviously, all that stuff matters.
“We did a better job of keeping them off the glass in the second half, but they had 10 offensive rebounds in the first half,” Bartruff said. “If they score on just half of those, you’re talking 10 or 12 points, if not more.
“We’ve been bad at free throw box-outs all year,” Bartruff said. “I’m not really sure why. Boxing out is something you do in practice every single day.
“Give McClain credit,” Bartruff said. “There are times when they don’t shoot the ball well, but about 50 percent of their offense is just getting offensive rebounds. They shot it well tonight and got a lot of offensive rebounds. That was the difference in the game.
“We made a good run to start the second half,” Bartruff said. “We scored nine points in a minute to get back and tie it. It was just kind of back and forth from there.”
McClain made 3 of 4 of the technical foul free throws.
Bartruff talked about his team’s only senior.
“We’re losing Reico and obviously Reico is a big reason why we’re here,” Bartruff said. “He brought a tenacity to this group and a will to win; the thought process that, when we step on the floor, that’s the expectation (to win), we’re not just hoping.
“We have a bunch of juniors coming back and a nice sophomore class and a nice freshman class, so, these guys are going to have the opportunity to get better over the spring and summer,” Bartruff said. “We’ll be completely different next year without a ball-dominant guard like Reico.”
Bartruff also mentioned that two starters, Tanner Lemaster and sophomore Isaiah Haithcock were in foul trouble, which cut back on their playing time.
“We’re excited about what we have coming back,” Bartruff said. “We have a bunch of guys who love basketball. We have to continue to get a lot better. Just because we’re a year older, doesn’t mean we’re going to step back into the gym and extend off of what we started this year.”
McClain head coach Joe B. Stewart saluted Bryson Badgley for achieving 1,000 career points.
“The young man missed 16 games,” Stewart said. “He missed 11 last year and five this year. To his credit, he said he could care less about the 1,000 points, he just said, ‘let’s keep winning basketball games.’ He obviously came through with a big (game) here.”
Stewart mentioned coaching legend John Wooden and competitive greatness.
“Being at your best when your best is needed,” Stewart said. “We needed it out of him. We needed it out of everybody we put on the floor and thankfully we got it tonight.
“(Badgley) got six (points) after missed free throws,” Stewart said. “He went to the offensive board and was the first guy to the ball and finished it off. He had a great big game in a great big situation against a great big opponent with a great big Greenfield crowd. There have been a lot of legendary folks who have put on jerseys for Greenfield McClain and No. 11 (Badgley) is one of them.
“(The game) was what we thought it would be,” Stewart said. “Our crowd was obviously a big help to us. There’s none that touches our student body. The kids in the hall who give me an ‘atta boy’ on a regular basis, it’s just a great atmosphere in our building. We’re just darn proud to be a part of this.”
Washington ends the season with a record of 13-8.
McClain (now 16-3) advances to play Sheridan for a District championship Friday at 9 p.m. back at Southeastern High School.
Sheridan beat Gallia Academy in Saturday’s fourth game, 58-48.
Also this Friday, Jackson (the No. 12 seed in the tournament) will face No. 1 seed Waverly for a District championship at 6:30 p.m. Jackson beat Logan Elm, 53-39 and Waverly defeated Warren, 61-56.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 13 13 15 29 — 70
Mc 13 22 16 22 — 73
WASHINGTON — Reico Colter 12 (3)-6-39; John Wall 2 (2)-0-10; Brayden May 0-0-0; Raleigh Haithcock 1 (1)-0-5; Micah Brown 0-0-0; Coleden May 0-0-0; Tanner Lemaster 5 (1)-1-14; Isaiah Haithcock 1-0-2. TOTALS — 21 (7)-7-70. Free throw shooting: 7 of 12 for 58 percent. Three-point field goals: Colter, 3; Wall, 2; R. Haithcock, Lemaster. Field goal shooting: 28 of 52 for 54 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 7 of 23 for 30 percent. Rebounds: 19 (5 offensive). Assists: 8. Steals: 8. Blocked shots: 1. Turnovers: 6.
McCLAIN — Preston Saunders 2-0-4; Bryson Badgley 8 (5)-3-34; Evann Mischal 1 (1)-0-5; Seth Wise 0-0-0; Braden Wright 1-8-10; Kendyll Toney 5-8-18; Wesley Potts 1-0-1. TOTALS — 18 (6)-19-73. Free throw shooting: 19 of 34 for 56 percent. Field goal shooting: 24 of 48 for 50 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 6 of 17 for 35 percent. Rebounds: 31 (15 offensive). Assists: 1. Steals: 4. Blocked shots: 1. Turnovers: 11.