It was a match-up of the top two teams in the Frontier Athletic Conference as the two remaining unbeaten teams in the FAC, Washington and Miami Trace, met at Washington High School Saturday, Dec. 17.
Both teams were 4-0 in the FAC. The Panthers were undefeated at 6-0 and the Blue Lions were 8-1 going into the tilt.
In front of a large holiday crowd, the teams gave a spirited and relentless effort on the court.
“Our effort was tremendous,” Washington head coach Shannon Bartruff said of his team’s 74-53 victory.
He quickly turned his comments to the player who took over the game, Blue Lion senior Michael Bearden.
“The way they tried to play Michael, basically not guarding him, you do that to a real good athlete, he might make you pay. And he did,” Bartruff said. “He played unbelievable.”
In addition to his game-high 27 points, Bearden turned in a double-double with 13 rebounds. Bearden also led the Blue Lions with six steals, converting some of those into transition buckets.
“We were down two starters tonight,” Bartruff said. “Garrett Rickman had a coming out party. There’s a kid who played j-v basketball last year. To come out on a stage like this and do what he did…his effort was tremendous. He rebounded the basketball. He scored in transition. He was our energy early.
“(It) shows how good this team can be,” Bartruff said. “We have a bunch of guys who can hurt you if they buy in and play together and they did that tonight.
“We didn’t need Tanner (Lemaster) to score tonight,” Bartruff said. “They were trying to take him out of the game. We had other guys who were making plays. Tanner was playing really good defense.
“Brayden May got maybe his second opportunity to start tonight,” Bartruff said. “He was solid on defense, flying around.” May scored five points, had five rebounds and three steals.
“Zay (Isaiah Haithcock) scored (12) points in the second half,” Bartruff said. “We took care of the basketball, we spread them out. We held Andrew (Guthrie) to eight points; that’s pretty solid there.
“Obviously I’m excited about this win,” Bartruff said. “It’s huge for these kids’ confidence. Hopefully we’ll build off of this and continue to get better.”
“Give Coach Bartruff and his staff credit,” Miami Trace head coach Ben Ackley said. “Rickman was sensational; Michael was sensational. Isaiah Haithcock made big shots at crucial times.
“In the third quarter (Bearden) caught fire,” Ackley said. “Our game plan coming in was we wanted to make Bearden shoot it from the perimeter. In the first half we had him at 1 of 7. He came out in the third quarter and really shot it well.
“We had some bad turnovers that led to easy buckets for them,” Ackley said. “We made some crucial mistakes.
“Our kids fought in the fourth quarter,” Ackley said. “We’re 6-1. I don’t think anyone expected that. I think this loss will make us, not break us.”
Miami Trace led in the first quarter, 3-0, 3-2, 5-2, 8-5 and 10-5 before the Blue Lions pulled even at the end of the period.
Washington scored first in the second quarter, a bucket by senior Tanner Lemaster, giving the home side a 12-10 lead.
The Blue Lions held the lead the remainder of the game.
Washington led three times by as many as six points as the second quarter unfolded.
Miami Trace pulled to within two points (18-16) with 2:08 to play in the first half.
After 16 minutes of action, the Blue Lions were in front, 24-16.
Whether or not anyone saw it coming, the game turned on the play in the third quarter and especially, but not exclusively, the play of Washington senior Michael Bearden.
Bearden had played in all of Washington’s previous eight games, averaging 5.8 points per game. His previous best scoring game was nine points against Chillicothe on Dec. 2.
Saturday, Bearden was the game’s leading scorer with 27 points.
Bearden scored three points in the first quarter and eight points in the second quarter.
He then exploded for 14 points in the third quarter, leading the way for the Blue Lions to take a 23-point lead after three quarters, 50-27.
Washington outscored the Panthers, 26-11 in the third quarter.
The Blue Lions increased their lead in the third to as many as 27 points.
The Panthers had a huge fourth quarter, offensively, scoring 26 points.
However, they could gain no traction in a comeback attempt, as Washington countered with 24 points.
A pair of juniors for Washington, Garrett Rickman and Isaiah Haithcock, both scored 14 points.
For the Panthers, senior Isaiah Reisinger led with 12 points. He had three of his team’s eight three-point field goals. He also led Miami Trace with two steals.
Miami Trace junior Austin Boedeker scored 11 points, junior Bryson Osborne scored nine and senior Andrew Guthrie had eight points.
Guthrie led the Panthers with seven rebounds and two blocked shots and Boedeker led with five assists.
Washington senior Tanner Lemaster scored six points and led his team with two blocked shots.
Junior Gabe Tayese scored six points for Washington, senior Brayden May had five points and freshman Noah Haithcock scored two.
Also for the Panthers, junior Brady Armstrong scored five points, senior Shay Salyers and junior Coledon May both scored three points.
Washington shot 53 percent from the field, making 31 of 59 field goal attempts. The Blue Lions made 4 of 12 three-point shot attempts for 33 percent.
The Panthers made 21 of 60 field goal tries for 35 percent. They were 8 of 29 from three-point range for 28 percent.
Washington had 29 rebounds (6 offensive) to 26 for the Panthers (11 offensive).
Turnovers were 13 for Washington and 12 for Miami Trace.
Elsewhere in the FAC Saturday, Jackson defeated Chillicothe, 49-42 and Hillsboro beat McClain, 72-56.
After the first round of FAC play, Washington is in first place with a record of 5-0.
Miami Trace is 4-1, followed by Jackson at 3-2, Hillsboro at 2-3, Chillicothe is 1-4 and McClain is 0-5.
Miami Trace (6-1 overall) will host Maderia Thursday with a freshman game starting off at 4:45 p.m.
Washington (9-1 overall) plays at Gallia Academy Thursday with the j-v game scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 10 14 26 24 — 74
MT 10 6 11 26 — 53
WASHINGTON — Garrett Rickman 5 (1)-1-14; Michael Bearden 10 (2)-1-27; Brayden May 1 (1)-0-5; Gabe Tayese 3-0-6; Tanner Lemaster 2-2-6; Noah Haithcock 1-0-2; Isaiah Haithcock 5-4-14. TOTALS — 27 (4)-8-74. Free throw shooting: 8 of 9 for 89 percent. Three-point field goals: Bearden, 2; Rickman, May. Field goal shooting: 31 of 59 for 53 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 4 of 12 for 33 percent. Turnovers: 12. Rebounds: 29 (6 offensive). Assists: 10. Steals: 11. Blocked shots: 3. Turnovers: 13
MIAMI TRACE — Shay Salyers 0 (1)-0-3; Trey Robinette 0-0-0; Coleden May 1-1-3; Brady Amrstrong 1 (1)-0-5; Isaiah Reisinger 1 (3)-1-12; Austin Boedeker 4 (1)-0-11; Bryson Sheets 1-0-2; Andrew Guthrie 4-0-8; Bryson Osborne 1 (2)-1-9. TOTALS — 13 (8)-3-53. Free throw shooting: 3 of 7 for 43 percent. Three-point field goals: Reisinger, 3; Osborne, 2; Salyers, Armstrong, Boedeker. Field goal shooting: 21 of 60 for 35 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 8 of 29 for 28 percent. Rebounds: 26 (11 offensive). Turnovers: 12. Assists: 8. Steals: 3. Blocked shots: 3. Fouls: 11.