GREENFIELD — It was a match up featuring an experienced Washington Blue Lion team taking on the McClain Tigers, a team full of players playing in just their fourth career varsity game in front of a large crowd Friday at McClain High School.
An unbiased observer might have looked at the match up and given the edge straightaway to Washington. However, McClain gave as good as they got and nearly pulled off the upset.
An extra four minutes were needed to decide the outcome and, in those moments, the Blue Lions were one point better than the Tigers, coming back home with a very hard-earned 46-45 victory.
“We had too many turnovers and missed shots,” Washington head coach Shannon Bartruff said. “We’re making plays right now that are making it so hard, instead of making the easy play. Credit to McClain, they played their butts of. I was happy our kids gutted it out. I’m happy for the win.”
When it was mentioned that that was arguably McClain’s best game to date, Bartruff knows it was a challenge for his team and more of the same lies ahead.
“We continue to preach to our guys that we’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Bartruff said. “We just have to quit trying to beat ourselves. That’s what we did tonight — 25 turnovers. That can’t happen. We have to take care of the basketball and finish around the rim.”
There was no doubt that the Blue Lions missed many easy shots under the basket and McClain was finally able to take its first lead with four minutes to play in the third quarter.
The lead changed hands a couple of times before Washington’s Brayden May hit a crucial three-point field goal with 2:07 to play and the Blue Lions trailing by three.
It was 31-29 McClain at the end of the third quarter.
The action-level remained high and the tension increased dramatically as the fourth quarter unfolded. The large crowd in the McClain gym knew it was anybody’s game.
The Tigers went up by four before Lemaster hit a three to make it 33-32 with 6:52 remaining. A key contributor for McClain, junior Seth Weller hit two free throws and Washington’s Isaiah Haithcock responded with a basket.
Lemaster, the game’s leading scorer with 21 points, gave Washington the lead and then put the Blue Lions up by three, before sophomore Zane Adams hit one of his three three-point field goals to tie the game, 38-38.
McClain took the lead after a Washington miss and kept it until Lemaster hit two free throws, somehow unfazed by the screaming crowd. McClain had the ball with 11 seconds to play, but turned it over.
Washington had a shot blocked at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
May scored for Washington and Weller tied the game. After a Blue Lion miss, Weller was fouled and made both throws to put McClain in front, 44-42.
Both teams turned it over before Washington’s John Wall made two free throws. McClain then missed two free throws and Washington turned it over again.
Weller made one of two free throws and Washington missed a shot, got the rebound and missed again. McClain fouled and Wall missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Lemaster beat his man to the rebound and got the putback to give Washington a 46-45 lead.
McClain missed a final shot attempt, ending another exciting contest in the long history of these enduring rivals.
“That’s a tough one to lose right there,” McClain first-year head coach Bob Williams said. “We prepared hard for (Washington); we scouted them well. We knew what they were going to do. We knew we were outmatched, but these guys have a lot of heart. They’re starting to pull together. That’s what I told them (after the game). This is a team that’s going to win.
“We’ve gotten better every game. With our intensity and they way we fought, I’m extremely proud of our guys.”
The Blue Lions improved to 3-0 in the Frontier Athletic Conference and 6-1 overall.
McClain gave perhaps its best effort yet in the early going, falling to 0-4 overall, 0-3 in the conference.
Elsewhere in the FAC Friday, Miami Trace won at Jackson, 63-40. The Panthers move to 3-0 in the FAC, 4-0 overall. Jackson dips to 1-2 in the FAC.
Hillsboro beat Chillicothe, 50-39. Both teams are now 1-2 in the FAC.
Washington is back in action tonight at Wilmington.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 11 10 8 11 6 — 46
Mc 4 13 14 9 5 — 45
WASHINGTON — Garrett Rickman 1-1-3; John Wall 0-2-2; Michael Bearden 4-0-8; Brayden May 1 (1)-1-6; Raleigh Haithcock 0-0-0; Gabe Tayese 0-0-0; Tanner Lemaster 7 (1) 4-21. Isaiah Haithcock 3-0-6. TOTALS — 16 (2)-8-46. Free throw shooting: 8 of 10 for 80 percent. Three-point field goals: Lemaster, May. Field goal shooting: 18 of 54 for 33 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 2 of 14 for 14 percent. Turnovers: 25. Rebounds: 32 (12 offensive). Assists: 7. Steals: 9. Blocked shots: 7.
McCLAIN — Zane Adams 2 (3)-1-14; Seth Weller 4 (1)-4-15; Riley Cummins 0-0-0; Trey Badgley 0-0-0; Owen Sykes 2-0-4; Gavin Warren 3-2-8; Robbie Wise 0-0-0; Andrew Potts 1-2-4; David Edwards 0-0-0. TOTALS — 12 (4)-9-45. Free throw shooting: 9 of 15 for 60 percent. Three-point field goals: Adams, 3; Weller. Field goal shooting: 16 of 43 for 37 percent. Turnovers: 14.
Chris Hoppes is the sports editor for the Record-Herald in Washington C.H.