It was what both coaches thought it would be… close and hard fought.
“I give a lot of credit to Coach Huffer and his players… they were playing really good defense” Lions Coach Shannon Bartruff said after the game. “I felt they were very physical with our cutters, physical with our kids coming off screens, physical on the basketball and our kids responded tonight.”But Washington got what they needed, high percentage shooting and a big shot by Tyler Slone (17pts) with less than 30 seconds remaining after the Cavs had tied the game at 47.
After Conner Eckles (13 pts) came up short on a free throw, Chillicothe’s Matt Benson banked in his only basket of the game with 50 seconds left. Slone got a feed that took him toward the basket and laid in the go ahead basket that broke the seventh tie of the game.
In transition, the Cavs worked for a final shot. Coach Huffer called time out to set up a final play with 12 seconds remaining. The Washington defense clamped down on Tommy Bolte (13pts) and when he saw his guard in triple-team trouble, Huffer called another time out leaving just 3.2 seconds left. Isaiah Johnson made his way to the basket off the inbounds pass and the shot fell short.
“We decided to come out and trap it and it worked out” said Bartruff “I just wanted us to be aggressive. If we laid back, Bolte’s too good. Even if we help, he’s gonna kick it to somebody for a wide open shot.”
The game was nip and tuck most of the way, however the Blue Lions had two stretches of 6 point leads and led by as many as eight points before halftime. That didn’t set well with Coach Huffer.
“I told the guys at halftime, ‘You’re down four and you’ve probably played the most selfish basketball you have all year… Gotta get better at that. That’s what really upsets me.”
The Cavaliers had jumped out to a 9-5 lead in the first quarter, but the Lions used a 10-2 run to take the lead. Johnson (12pts) tied the game at 14 on a three-pointer before the buzzer. The Cavs whittled that eight point margin to four by the intermission.
The Lions’ least productive quarter came in the 3rd as Chillicothe kept pace. Washington had made 63% of their shots in the first half and when they needed the long range bombers they were getting them from the corners as Eckles, Garrett Phipps (10pts) and Gavin Wissinger (7pts) hit 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. But still, the Lions couldn’t shake the Cavs.
Nate Rosenbauer scored six of his 12 points in three minute stretch of the 3rd to keep Washington from pulling away.
In the final period, Eckles hit a free throw and Wissinger sank a three to put the Lions up 45-39. Out of a time out, Eddie Wells drained a triple and Bolte followed with a three-point play to knot the score at 45 with 4:10 left. Eckles added two more free throws for the 47-45 lead before Benson tied it with under a minute to go.
“Our guys are always gonna fight” said Huffer. “That’s what they (Washington) do, they hit three pointers… they just want to spread you out and they knock down threes. They want to get you out quick on transition points… and we know that. I thought our zone defense affected them some tonight.”
Coach Bartruff agreed. “They slowed us down a bit, made us turn it over a little bit in the first half and it really turned into a half-court game.” The Cavs forced 18 Blue Lions turnovers to just 8 by Chillicothe.
Washington (10-2/6-0) will play Xenia Saturday while the Cavs (6-6/3-2) will travel to Hillsboro Tuesday.