An extremely large crowd turned out Saturday for rivalry basketball, Fayette County style, as the Washington Blue Lions boarded buses and made the short trip to Miami Trace High School to take on the Panthers.
With a new high school in the offing for next year, it was, in all likelihood, the final Washington versus Miami Trace basketball game to ever be played in the venerable, old Panther Pit.
As so many games have in this gym, since John F. Kennedy was president, this game was full of excitement and came down to the wire.
In the end, the Panthers held on for a 51-48 victory.
Miami Trace improves to 4-5 overall, 4-1 in the Frontier Athletic Conference. With just six teams in the new affiliation, this game completed the first of two round robins to determine the champion.
The Blue Lions are now 2-4 overall, 1-4 in the FAC.
The game boiled down to free throw shooting, where the Panthers had a substantial edge.
Senior Darby Tyree was the game’s leading scorer for Miami Trace with 27 points. He made 11 of 11 from the free throw line.
The Blue Lions had a total of 11 free throw attempts for the game, making nine.
Junior Evan Upthegrove paced the Blue Lions with 13 points. He also had six rebounds.
Tyree had a double-double with 11 rebounds (tops on the night).
Miami Trace senior Heath Cockerill scored 11 points and had a critical late-game steal and basket. Cockerill led the game with a total of three steals.
Junior Dillon Steward scored 11 points for Washington. He also had five rebounds and led his team with four assists.
Senior Cameron Carter scored 10 points, led the Panthers with four assists and grabbed five rebounds.
Junior Blaise Tayese scored 10 for Washington and snagged nine rebounds.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well,” Washington head coach Shannon Bartruff said. “We had, unofficially, like 22 or 23 turnovers. A lot of our turnovers were really timid, some young kids in a big game that basically played j-v basketball (last year). This is a little bit different environment.
“Coach (Rob) Pittser and his teams, for the last probably, 8-10 years, are amazing at playing chaotic basketball,” Bartruff said. “Sometimes it looks like chaos, but that’s how they want it. I felt there was a stretch in the second and third quarter where we didn’t do a very good job of handling that little bit of pressure where they ran random (double teams) at us.
“Cam Carter was just helping on Dillon, Blaise and Evan,” Bartruff said. “Then, we had guys catching the ball and they weren’t even looking to square up. You have to learn from the situations. Some of our shot selection, especially in the first half, was just bad.
“I don’t think it really matters how you play them, zone or man,” Bartruff said. “(Tyree) was going to get his touches in the paint or around the block. We fronted, we played behind; Evan did a great job in the first half. We helped off of guys that we thought we could help off of. There were times when he had three people around him and he scored over the top of them.
“We can’t let one guy beat us,” Bartruff said. “That’s what we’ve got to do a better job of. Against Hillsboro, it was the same thing; we got beat pretty much by one guy (Phil Mycroft). We have to (review this game) and get better.”
“It was a very typical Miami Trace-Court House game,” Miami Trace head coach Rob Pittser said. “There were a lot of runs, a lot of kids playing their tails off on both ends. Usually, no matter what kind of seasons the teams are having, it’s usually a battle right down to the end and that’s what it was tonight.
“It’s a shame to see one team lose, as hard as the kids played,” Pittser said. “Fortunately, tonight we were able to come up on the winning end.
“It was very high stress there in the second half,” Pittser said. “We were able to get the ball into the block several times, which was the game plan to begin with. We built a lead, but we had a stretch there where we turned it over on five out of six possessions and that’s when they hung around and got back in it.
“An eight or 10-point lead in this game feels a little bit more intense than an eight to 10-point lead in most games,” Pittser said. “They were forcing us out really high and with their perimeter defense, you’re just not going to be able to make a living playing dribble-drive from 35 feet out with them standing right in front of you. And we were able to get catches deeper into the paint and closer to the bucket.
“Cam’s point totals were down a little bit, but his leadership in running our team was way up,” Pittser said. “We would have been in a lot of trouble tonight without his ball-handling and getting us into our offense. We had contributions from other kids. Dakota Bolton got a couple of big rebounds and Heath Cockerill may have had the defensive play again tonight, as he did last night when he took that charge. Tonight he had that steal and that and-one (free throw after the foul). I couldn’t be prouder of him for embracing his role. He has been paying attention in practice; that’s application of a whole week’s worth of work coming into just a few seconds. Couldn’t be happier for the senior.”
There were three lead changes in the first quarter with the Panthers taking an 11-8 lead.
The Panthers had a five-point lead early in the second quarter.
Washington went on a 10-0 run with scoring from Miguel O’Flaherty and Garitt Leisure to go in front, 20-14.
The Panthers ended the half with a 7-0 run from Cockerill, Carter and Tyree. Miami Trace held a 21-20 lead as the teams exited the floor for the break.
During the halftime, the Panthers recognized former players dating back to the early to mid-1960s and including several players who graduated earlier in 2017.
It’s all part of a whole series of recognitions that will be conducted at home games the remainder of this season.
As the game of ebbs and flows continued, the Panthers got the start both teams hoped for in the third quarter, with a 7-0 run.
That run was broken by a steal and basket from Tayese, followed by a bucket from Steward.
However, every time Tyree went to the foul line, he was making it count.
He scored the next six points to put the Panthers back up by 10, 34-24.
The Panthers were in front, 36-25 after three quarters of action.
Early in the fourth, the Panthers held a 39-28 lead.
This time it was a 10-0 run by the Blue Lions, making the score 39-38 with just over four minutes to play.
Washington took a 42-41 lead on a pair of free throws by Steward with 3:18 left in the game.
After a Panthers turnover, Cockerill got the steal and scored. He was fouled and converted the free throw to give Miami Trace a 44-42 lead with 2:47 to go.
Another moment and Miami Trace was in the lead, 48-42.
Moments later, it was 49-46, Panthers with 30 seconds to play.
The teams exchanged baskets and with 10 seconds to play and leading by three, the Panthers turned it over on an in bounds play.
Washington got a final shot off, but it was no good, leaving the Panthers with a 51-48 victory.
The Blue Lions have one more game in 2017 and that is coming up Friday night at Adena High School against the Warriors.
The Panthers will be hosting the McDonald’s Holiday Tournament Thursday and Saturday.
On Thursday, London will take on Greeneview at 6:30 p.m. and the Panthers will play Madison Plains at 8 p.m.
Then, on Saturday, it will be the consolation game at 6:30 p.m. followed by the championship game at 8 p.m.
There will be an all-tournament team announced after the championship game.
Pittser also spoke about the end of an era with the new high school on the horizon.
“The uniqueness of the gyms in our area is kind of going away,” Pittser said. “With a lot of the new facilities, a lot of gyms kind of look the same.
“It’s going to be kind of sad to see this one go,” Pittser said. “There is so much history here; not just boys and girls basketball, but the wrestling teams and proms and dances and graduations and community events. There’s a lot of history in this building and it’s very unique in nature. We’ll try to (tap) every bit of energy that’s left in it and hopefully it will be good to us the rest of the season.
“You won’t find another (gym) like this,” Pittser said. “We encourage folks to come out and support our programs here the rest of this year, whether it be basketball or otherwise and take in what’s going to kind of be a treasure to go away here in the Pit.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
MT 11 10 15 15 — 51
W 8 12 5 23 — 48
MIAMI TRACE — Darby Tyree 8-11-27; Heath Cockerill 3 (1)-2-11; Cameron Carter 2 (1)-3-10; Austin Brown 1-0-2; Brett Lewis 0-1-1; Dakota Bolton 0-0-0; Austin Mathews 0-0-0. TOTALS — 14 (2)-17-51. Free throw shooting: 17 of 19 for 89 percent. Three-point field goals: Cockerill, Carter. Combined field goal shooting: 16 of 49 for 32 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 2 of 16 for 12 percent. Rebounds: 25 (6 offensive). Assists: 8. Steals: 12. Blocks: 3. Turnovers: 14. Personal fouls: 12. Bench points: 1. Second chance points: 11. Points of turnovers: 8
WASHINGTON — Evan Upthegrove 4 (1)-2-13; Dillon Steward 4-3-11; Blaise Tayese 3-4-10; Miguel O’Flaherty 3-0-6; Garitt Leisure 1 (1)-0-5; Ross Matthews Jr. 0 (1)-0-3; Trevor Rarick 0-0-0. TOTALS — 15 (3)-9-48. Free throw shooting: 9 of 11 for 81 percent. Three-point field goals: Upthegrove, Leisure, Matthews Jr. Combined field goal shooting: 18 of 43 for 41 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 3 of 17 for 17 percent. Rebounds: 30 (4 offensive). Assists: 8. Steals: 3. Blocks: 0. Turnovers: 19. Personal fouls: 15. Bench points: 5. Second chance points: 2. Points off turnovers: 15.