The McClain Tigers scored another win against longtime rival Hillsboro Hillsboro High School Tuesday night in a Division II Sectional Semifinal at Northeastern High School, earning a slot in the sectional championship and a chance at a deeper tournament run.
Short shooting and McClain’s historic defense plagued the Hillsboro boys, and a flurry of Tiger freethrows in the fourth quarter put them under for good.
McClain shot 11 of 14 from the freethrow line for 79 percent, while Hillsboro made 3 of 10 for 30 percent. McClain’s Mat Barton led scoring for both teams with 22 points, and Marshall Ward, Ty Haithcock and Ethan Watson each made 10 points for Hillsboro.
Two back-to-back threes from Haithcock gouged the McClain boys’ 8-point lead in the first three minutes of the game, putting Hillsboro on the scoreboard down by 2 points. Jacob Starkey put up a two for McClain, and Hillsboro’s Watson tossed two from the line for a first-quarter score of 10-8, with the Indians again down by 2.
A brief lead for Hillsboro was the highlight of the second quarter thanks to Watson, who scored a long three at 4:55 for a 1-point Indian lead. Mischal put an end to it with a three for himself about 30 seconds later, taking the Tigers back into the lead at 15-13. McClain kept that lead for the rest of the game.
Both teams scored low in the second quarter, with Mischal draining all 5 of McClain’s points for the period while a two from Cam Reed, a three from Ward and a freethrow from Haithcock to wrap up the half gave the Indians a 6-point gain for the quarter.
By the half, the score was 15-14, showing the Indians chipping away at the Tigers’ lead.
The third quarter had the Indians frustrated by missed shots and a defensive wall from the Tigers. McClain made a 15-point gain for the period, keeping the Indians at just 5 points. Barton was the star of the third quarter, making five 2-pointers and a freethrow to lead both teams. By the buzzer, McClain had improved their lead to 11 points at 30-19.
Hillsboro made a 21-point gain in the third quarter and kept McClain at 17 points. The Indians staged a comeback in the latter half of the quarter, whittling McClain’s lead down to 2 points with less than four minutes to go after Watson downed a three and a two in 15 seconds in an offensive surge. Ward put in a two to bring the score to 35-33 with 3:41 left on the clock. The Tigers scratched back, though, and foul trouble from the Indians led to a flurry of freethrows that swept them under the rug in the last 30 seconds of the game.
Despite a long 3-point buzzer beater from Ward, McClain pulled away with a 7-point win and a slot in the sectional championship.
“We play zone because of our length,” said McClain head coach Jesse Mitchell. “In tournament time, we can’t play zone the whole time but I thought we did a good job… I thought we had a decent game plan. Hats off to Hillsboro and those guys.”
“We shot extremely poor tonight,” said Hillsboro head coach Bruce Miles. “Credit their defense, that zone is really long and they force you to move it around the perimeter… We’re going into a new league next year. We’ve got to put the time in. We’ve got to work on our game.”
The McClain Tigers will head to Adena Saturday to face off against the Unioto Shermans in the Division II Sectional Championship at 3 p.m.
McClain — 10 5 15 17 — 47
Hillsboro — 8 6 5 21 — 40
MHS: O’Conner 1-2/2-4; Starkey 2-4; Barton 5(2)-4/7-22; Mischal 2(2)-3/4-13; Gray 2-0/1-4
HHS: Swayne 1-2; Reed 1-2; Ryan 2/2-2; Ward 2(2)-10; Watson 2(2)-0/2-10; Anderson 1-2; Haithcock (3)-1/2-10; Keets 1-0/4-2
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.