It was what can only be described as a very rare match-up of two No. 1 seeds clashing near the end of the season as the Miami Trace Panthers welcomed the Vinton County Vikings to the Panther Pit Tuesday night.
Both teams were seeded No. 1 in the Division II Southeast District tournament. They would not meet in the tournament until the Regional finals.
Vinton County was also ranked No. 6 in the State in Division II this week by the Associated Press.
Before another very large crowd, one of several the Panthers have played in front of down the stretch of the season, Miami Trace and Vinton County battled tremendously before the Panthers came out with a 72-65 victory.
The Panthers improve to 18-3 with the win.
Vinton County is now 19-2 on the season.
It was a good shooting night for both teams.
Miami Trace shot better from three-point range (10 of 20 for 50 percent) than they did from inside the arc (11 of 30 for 37 percent).
Vinton County was the opposite: they hit 13 of 22 conventional baskets for 59 percent, while hitting 11 of 25 threes for 44 percent.
The difference came at the free throw line.
Miami Trace made 20 of 26 foul shots for 76 percent.
Vinton County was 6 of 7 from the line for 85 percent.
Miami Trace placed four in double figures, led by senior DeAndre Pettiford with 21 points. He hit an amazing 13 of 13 from the free throw line.
Senior Blake Pittser scored 20 points, with five threes. Pittser led the Panthers with five assists.
Junior Darby Tyree scored 14 points, including three threes. He led Miami Trace with eight rebounds and he had one blocked shot.
Senior Tyrae Pettiford scored 13 points and junior Cameron Carter scored four.
For the Vikings, Derick Jones was the game’s leading scorer with 25 points. He hit five three-point baskets and led his team with six rebounds.
Tristan Bartoe scored 18 points and Nathan Yates hit four threes for 12 points.
It proved to be a night of long-range shooting for both teams that combined, went 21 of 45 from three-point range.
Right from the start, the Panthers hit two threes to take a 6-2 lead.
The Panthers hit four threes in the first quarter to two for the Vikings as Miami Trace took a 17-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The period ended with a slam dunk by Tyrae Pettiford.
An 11-2 run by the Panthers at the start of the second quarter gave the home team a 28-14 lead with 4:28 to play in the half.
With just about one minute remaining in the half, the Panthers held a 16-point lead, 35-19.
The Vikings scored the final five points of the half to trail, 35-24 going into the locker room.
Vinton County wasted little time in cutting into the Panthers’ lead to start the second half.
First, the Vikings cut the deficit to seven points, then later it was six points, then, as they kept hitting threes, the Panthers’ lead was cut to four, 46-42.
Pittser hit a three, then Vinton County had an old-fashioned three-point play and another trey from Nathan Yates to pull to within one, 49-48, with 58 seconds left in the third.
A couple of free throws from DeAndre Pettiford and a transition lay-up by Tyrae Pettiford gave the Panthers a 53-48 lead after three.
As the battle continued in the fourth quarter, the Vikings kept hitting field goals and the Panthers kept making free throws. Gradually, the margin narrowed until the Panthers led by just one point, 59-58 with 3:45 remaining to be played.
DeAndre Pettiford was 11 of 11 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Vinton County pulled to within one at 61-60 with 1:32 to play in the game.
DeAndre Pettiford converted a basket and free throw after the foul to give the Panthers a 64-60 lead .
Tristan Bartoe had a three-point play with 54.3 seconds remaining to make it 64-63, Panthers.
The Panthers got the lead back to four, then it was cut to two, then back up to four with 21.2 seconds to play.
Vinton County missed on the offensive end and Pettiford made two more free throws to make it 71-65 with 8.5 seconds to go.
The Vikings misfired again on the offensive side and Tyree made a free throw with 1.8 seconds on the game clock for what would be the final score, 72-65.
“We talked before the game, we were probably the only district in the state where two No. 1 seeds played tonight,” Miami Trace head coach Rob Pittser said. “It was a really big game for our district and they are a really great basketball team. Coach Combs does a great job.
“They are disciplined, they are tough,” Pittser said. “They have size and they can shoot. Their scheme is great. It’s a difficult match when you play them.
“We shot the ball well enough to get a lead,” Pittser said. “Then we played well enough to hold it. But, they just kept coming with wave after wave and the threes were going, but we kept answering. It helps to have the senior class we do with nine kids who collectively have a lot of will and we needed every bit of that tonight.”
“We knew when we scheduled this game, we were doing it for a reason,” Vinton County head coach Matt Combs said. “We knew Miami Trace was going to be really good this year. We felt like we were going to be pretty good, ourselves, so we scheduled this game with the idea of it being right before the tournament, getting you ready. It worked out well, because we wouldn’t face each other again until the Regional finals.
“Hats off to them,” Combs said. “They played really well. They are a hard team to come back against. I was real proud of our kids for the way they battled back in the second half. We had it to within one several times. We just couldn’t get over that hump.”
Vinton County has a final regular season home game against Wellston Friday night.
Miami Trace will visit Washington High School to take on the Blue Lions Friday at 6 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MT 17 18 18 19 — 72
VC 12 12 24 17 — 65
MIAMI TRACE — DeAndre Pettiford 4-13-21; Blake Pittser 1 (5)-3-20; Darby Tyree 2 (3)-1-14; Tyrae Pettiford 4 (1)-2-13; Cameron Carter 0 (1)-1-4; Seth Leach 0-0-0; Skyler McDonald 0-0-0; Jacob Batson 0-0-0. TOTALS — 11 (10)-20-72. Free throw shooting: 20 of 26 for 76 percent. Three-point field goals: Pittser, 5; Tyree, 3; T. Pettiford, Carter. Combined field goal shooting: 21 of 50 for 42 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 10 of 20 for 50 percent. Rebounds: 28 (8 offensive). Assists: 11. Steals: 10. Blocks: 2. Turnovers: 9. Personal fouls: 13. Bench points: 4. Second chance points: 13. Points off turnovers: 14.
VINTON COUNTY — Derick Jones 4 (5)-2-25; Tristan Bartoe 5 (2)-2-18; Nathan Yates 0 (4)-0-12; Jake Speakman 2-2-6; Bryce Damron 2-0-4; Eli Griffith 0-0-0; Caleb Montgomery 0-0-0; Nevan Yates 0-0-0. TOTALS — 13 (11)-6-65. Free throw shooting: 6 of 7 for 85 percent. Three-point field goals: Jones, 5; Na. Yates, 4; Bartoe, 2. Combined field goal shooting: 24 of 47 for 51 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 11 of 25 for 44 percent. Rebounds: 21 (2 offensive). Assists: 8. Steals: 6. Blocks: 2. Turnovers: 13. Personal fouls: 19. Bench points: 0. Second chance points: 3. Points off turnovers: 7.
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1