Chillicothe’s Isaiah Johnson drained his fifth 3-point basket to snap a 56-56 tie in the fourth quarter to give the Cavaliers a lead they’d not relinquish. It paved the way for a 66-56 win over Miami Trace.
In a game which saw 14 lead changes, Jonson finished with 26 points to lead all scorers. It was the third consecutive game in which a Cavalier had a career-high.
As for Johnson, he stepped up when the Panthers defense would clamp down on Tommy Bolte. The senior big man said in the postgame interview on WBEX “I saw Tommy come off the screen… of course my guy’s gonna help off Tommy, he just kicked it right out to me and I hit it.”
“As a coach, you have to learn to eventually turn the team over to the team” said Chillicothe’s Eric Huffer when describing the night his team had. “The guys are starting to understand our motion offense and the freedom it gives. I am just so proud of Isaiah Johnson… he has the green light because I see that confidence.”
The Cavs had a 14-9 lead after the first period, but Miami Trace tied the game on a three point play by Trevor Smith to tie the game at 28 at the half. Matt Benson hit a baseline jumper to put the Cavs ahead 38-30 before Miami Trace used a stretch by Trevor Smith, Derrick Marcum and Cedric Pettiford to take the lead 47-44 through three.
“I knew we were in for a dog fight if we were gonna get out of here with a W” said Miami Trace Coach Rob Pittser. “We knew the environment we were going into… you’re in a prideful district and they’re new to our league and they (Cavaliers) expect to win.”
As impressive was his offensive game, the defense was just as good. Trace’s Pettiford hit 10 of the Panthers’ points in a 13-4 run which turned a 40-36 deficit into a 49-44 lead. The junior post player hit the first basket to start the 4th period, but then was shut down. “He has a quick first step, but coach told me to play a couple of steps off of him” said Johnson “let him have the jump shot, so eventually he just tried to go to the bucket but I was already two steps back so he couldn’t get that little lane he wanted.”
“He’s been real consistent for us” said Pittser of his pivot man. “If we can get the ball and dump it down and even the threat of him getting the ball opens up some stuff for our other guys.”
The final moments came down to defense. The Cavaliers protecting a six point margin, Chillicothe forced a couple of turnovers which led to the padding the lead. Coach Huffer was pleased with Bolte keeping pressure on the ball late “Tommy got back to being Tommy tonight and when he plays defense like that, he’s the best player in the league.” Bolte followed Johnson with 20 points.
“Eddie (Wells) stepped up for two games” said Johnson. “And then today, it was just my day to step up. It might be (Nate) Rosenbauer’s game tomorrow, (Matt) Benson’s… any one of us can step up at any time.”
The Panthers (8-2/1-2) battle Clinton Massie Friday and a makeup game with McClain Saturday, part of a huge stretch for Miami Trace. “Three games this week and three games next week… 75% of the league schedule will be over in about 12 days” said Pittser. “A big stretch for us.”
Cedric Pettiford ended with 20 points, Trevor Smith had 15 and Derrick Marcum added 11 for the double figure scorers.
Chillicothe (6-5/3-1) will host first place Washington CH (8-2/5-0) Friday at Hatton Gym. The Lions earned a 40-36 overtime victory Tuesday over McClain.