CIRCLEVILLE — Washington Blue Lion head coach Shannon Bartruff felt he was about out of options — save one — on Tuesday with his team trailing host Circleville 57-48 midway through the fourth quarter.
“I felt like we were in a tough spot at that point in the game, because we weren’t moving that well on offense and struggling with our execution. On defense, we were just playing okay,” Bartruff said. “About the only choice we had left was going to our pressure.”
The Blue Lions used their pressure to spark a deciding 15-0 run to rally for a 63-57 non-league win to open the season.
Two free throws from Evan Upthegrove cut the Circleville advantage to 57-50.
The Blue Lions then forced three straight Circleville turnovers that they converted into points with a free throw by Dillon Steward, two more free throws from Upthegrove and a layup by Ross Matthews Jr. to cut the Circleville lead to 57-55.
“That changed the complexion of the game and swung momentum from Circleville to us,” said Bartruff of the Blue Lions’ pressure. “We knew Circleville had some problems against pressure in their season-opener against Zane Trace and our kids were able to get some key turnovers.”
Washington continued to gain momentum when Garitt Leisure put back a missed shot to tie the game and Upthegrove buried a jumper on the next trip down the floor to give the Blue Lions their first lead since the second quarter at 59-57 with 1:57 left.
The Blue Lions then split four of eight free throws to cement the win.
“I was proud of the way we finished the game,” Bartruff said. “Our kids kept their composure, kept playing hard and they were able to battle back. We had a lot of contributions from different people, like Dillon Steward and Evan Upthegrove doing some nice things on offense and Blaise Tayese coming down with some big rebounds for us.”
Circleville shot just 3 of 17 in the fourth quarter, including missing its final 10 shots of the night.
Upthegrove led the Blue Lions with 18 points, Steward followed with 16 and Leisure and Blaise Tayese added eight each.
Seth Risner led all scorers with 25 points for the Tigers (0-2) and Cameron Banks added 20 before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Lions will hold their home-opener Friday as they begin Frontier Athletic Conference play against Hillsboro.
The j-v game will begin the action at 6 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 18 10 14 21 — 63
C 13 18 18 8 — 57
WASHINGTON — Dillon Steward 5-2-16, Evan Upthegrove 4-8-18, Ross Matthews 1-0-2, Miguel O’Flaherty 3-0-6, Garitt Leisure 2-3-8, Blaise Tayese 3-2-8, Trevor Rarick 2-1-5. TOTALS — 13 (7)-16-63. Free throw shooting: 16 of 28 for 57 percent. Three-point field goals: Steward (4), Upthegrove (2) and Leisure. Combined field goal shooting: 20 of 41 for 49 percent.
CIRCLEVILLE — Marcella 0-2-2, Mancini 0-1-1, Justice 3-0-7, Rhymer 1-0-2, Banks 8-2-20, Risner 11-3-25. TOTALS — 20 (3)- 8-15 57. Free throw shooting: 8 of 15 for 53 percent. Three-point field goals: Banks (2) and Justice. Combined field goal shooting: 23 of 58 for 40 percent.