GREENFIELD — There was one piece of unfinished business in the Frontier Athletic Conference boys basketball season for 2018-19 and it was a make-up game featuring the Washington Blue Lions at the McClain Tigers.
Back on Dec. 18, when the teams played at Washington High School, the Blue Lions came away with a 54-47 victory.
Saturday night, the points were at even more of a premium as McClain evened the season series with a 39-38 victory.
The win for the Tigers makes it a three-way tie for second place in the FAC with McClain, Washington and Jackson all finishing at 6-4.
Neither team went very deep into their bench on this night, with the Tigers only using six players and Washington having seven see the floor.
The Tigers (15-7 overall) overcame a seven-point deficit to start the fourth quarter and came away with a 39-38 victory.
Senior Devin Carter was the game’s leading scorer for McClain with 15 points. He was one of four different Tigers to hit a three-point field goal.
Junior Dalton Mischal hit one three and scored nine points.
Every player that stepped onto the floor for McClain scored.
Freshman Bryson Badgley hit two threes for six points;, senior Kobe Penwell had four points, senior Ethan Cockerill hit one three and junior Garrison Banks scored two.
For the Blue Lions (14-8 overall), senior Evan Upthegrove and junior Garitt Leisure both scored 12 points. Leisure hit three of Washington’s four threes and Upthegrove had the other.
Senior Richie Burns scored 10 points and senior Blaise Tayese scored four.
Before a large crowd at McClain, the Tigers scored the first five points of this long-time rivalry game.
By the end of the first quarter, the score was tied, 10-10.
One had the feeling that this could be a low-scoring, defensive battle and that’s what it turned out to be.
The Blue Lions led by as many as five points in the second quarter before the half ended with Washington having 20 points to 16 for the Tigers.
With a three-point basket by Upthegrove, the Blue Lions went in front, 25-18, prompting a McClain time out with 3:16 to play in the third quarter.
With 55 seconds to play in the third, Upthegrove hit another basket to give Washington a 29-20 lead.
It was 29-22, Washington with eight minutes remaining.
This is when the momentum swung back to the Tigers.
McClain scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to pull to within two, 29-27 with six minutes to play.
Burns scored the next two buckets for the Blue Lions for a 33-27 lead.
Badgley hit his second trey of the period and Mischal scored to pull McClain to within one point, 33-32 with 3:50 to go in the game.
Then, in fairly quick succession, McClain scored, to take a 34-33 lead.
Leisure hit a three to give the Blue Lions a 36-34 lead.
Not to be outdone, Mischal released a shot from behind the arc that went through and gave the Tigers a 37-36 lead with two minutes remaining.
Washington had what turned out to be its last lead of the game on another basket from Burns, 38-37.
McClain did not score on its next possession and the Blue Lions called for time with 1:24 to go.
The Blue Lions turned it over, but then so did McClain.
Washington had two shots, but could not get the ball to fall.
Carter scored what turned out to be the final basket of the game, making it 39-38 McClain with 54 seconds to play. He was fouled, but missed the and-one.
Washington turned the ball over and then fouled. A time out was called with 13.7 seconds to play.
McClain missed the front end of the one-and-one and Washington went down court with more than enough time to get a shot away.
The defense by the Tigers kept the Blue Lions from getting the shot they wanted and the attempt was no good, giving McClain the hard-fought 39-38 victory.
“We’ve won so many close ones on the road,” Washington head coach Connor Scott said. “A lot of times the better team wins. Sometimes you need to get a little luck; we got a little luck at Vinton County, we got a little luck at Unioto.
“I just thought the big shots and the big calls kind of went the other way today,” Scott said. “That’s a crew that’s not going to call a lot of fouls and let you play physical and I like that.”
McClain was 0 of 2 from the line and Washington went 2 of 6 at the stripe.
“I can’t be more happy with the way we played,” Scott said. “I just think McClain made a couple more plays than we did. We were up six with the ball and missed a wide-open shot and had a couple of turnovers.
“Hats off to them,” Scott said. “This crowd really spurred them on in the fourth quarter. They played really, really hard.”
Scott turned his thoughts to preparing his team for the rematch with Unioto in the Sectional championship game Friday at 8:30 p.m. at Southeastern High School.
“I want to make sure that our guys don’t remember these last two games and think negatively about our regular season,” Scott said. “They won 11 more games than they did last season. I want them to reflect positively on the season, because I thought we played really, really well.”
“This was a night when the things we practice, offensively, that we feel like we need those things to click to win, they didn’t click,” McClain head coach Joe B. Stewart said. “It was just a hard effort, a tough effort by our kids.
“I told the kids in the locker room, ‘this is who you’ve been raised to be,’” Stewart said. “You just do your best and dig in and we just outlast the other guys. We need to be just a little bit better, in this case, just one bucket better.
“It was a heck of a job, defensively, to hold Washington Court House to 38 points on a night when we struggled to shoot it,” Stewart said.
Stewart gave kudos to the only freshman on a team with the rest of the squad comprised of juniors and seniors, Bryson Badgley, who hit two three-point field goals in the fourth quarter to account for his six points on the night.
“He wanted it,” Stewart said. “At this point in time, he’s played enough, we don’t have to call him freshman anymore. He sensed the moment, and was unafraid of the basketball and unafraid of the moment. Those were obviously key, key baskets.
“Boy, Ethan Cockerill and (Evan) Upthegrove, you talk about two hard-nosed kids,” Stewart said. “They are very skilled in different areas. That was just a huge steal by Ethan underneath the basket. We think really highly of Upthegrove as a player and as a person. It was just a great job defensively by the whole team. We just outlasted them at the end.”
McClain will play Waverly in a Sectional championship game Friday at 6 p.m. at Southeastern High School. This is the game that precedes Washington versus Unioto, so, fans have to know that the SEHS gym will be packed Friday night.
Blue Lion tournament ticket info
Tournament tickets for the Washington Blue Lions Sectional championship game against Unioto are on sale this week at the high school for $5. Stop by the entrance to the gym at WHS between 8 and 11 a.m. or from 1 until 3 p.m. to purchase tickets. You can help the school by purchasing your tournament tickets from them as the school gets to keep 25 percent of the proceeds from tickets it sells.
Tickets for the Washington Lady Lions (18-5) District semifinal game against Meigs (15-8) Thursday at 8 p.m. at Southeastern High School, are $6 each and are on sale at the high school at the same hours listed above.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 10 10 9 9 — 38
Mc 10 6 6 17 — 39
WASHINGTON — Evan Upthegrove 4 (1)-1-12; Blaise Tayese 2-0-4; Garitt Leisure 1 (3)-1-12; Omar Porter 0-0-0; Drew Moats 0-0-0; Richie Burns 5-0-10; Eli Lynch 0-0-0. TOTALS — 12 (4)-2-38. Free throw shooting: 2 of 6 for 33 percent. Three-point field goals: Leisure, 3; Upthegrove. Field goal shooting: 16 of 38 for 42 percent.
McCLAIN — Kobe Penwell 2-0-4; Bryson Badgley 0 (2)-0-6; Ethan Cockerill 0 (1)-0-3; Garrison Banks 1-0-2; Devin Carter 6 (1)-0-15; Dalton Mischal 3 (1)-0-9. TOTALS — 12 (5)-0-39. Free throw shooting: 0 of 2. Three-point field goals: Badgley, 2; Cockerill, Carter, Mischal. Field goal shooting: 17 of 45 for 38 percent. Turnovers: 9.