Lynchburg-Clay’s Mustangs rolled into Waverly on Saturday night and took on the Portsmouth Trojans in an intense Division III Sectional Finals game. The Mustangs finished the night by cutting down the nets at the Waverly High School gymnasium following a thrilling 47-42 win.
The Mustangs got off to a good start as Eric McLaughlin hit a three pointer to open the scoring for both teams. Following the triple by McLaughlin the Trojans went on a 9-2 run to take an early 9-5 lead.
Lynchburg-Clay finished the first with a 6-0 run that was capped off by Damin Pierson who hit an acrobatic layup with under thirty seconds to play and gave the Mustangs an 11-9 lead.
The Trojans found success early in the second quarter as they rattled off six unanswered points to start the frame and took a 15-11 lead.
Lynchburg’s Raymond Conner broke the seal for the Mustangs in the second quarter to spark a 7-0 run for the Mustangs and gave them an 18-15 lead with 4:25 to play in the first half.
Following a timeout the Trojan’s Reese Johnson buried a three pointer to knot the game at 18 apiece. From there the Mustangs closed the half on a 7-2 run and claimed a 25-20 lead at halftime.
Portsmouth put up a good fight on the night and led by as many as four points in both the first and second quarters.
Lynchburg-Clay controlled the third period of play and had an answer for everything the Trojans threw at them. Triples by Pierson and McLaughlin late in the period allowed Lynchburg to weather Portsmouth’s best shot in the third and extend their lead to 40-33 as the teams prepared for the final frame.
Portsmouth saved their best shot for last as they opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run that was capped by Daniel Jordan converting a layup and later hitting one of two at the charity stripe to tie the game at 42. On the ensuing Lynchburg-Clay possession McLaughlin nailed a triple from the top of the key to give the Mustangs a 45-42 lead with 2:11 to play.
McLaughlin was fouled with 28 seconds to play and, with the Mustangs clinging to a three point lead, stepped to the line for a one and one opportunity. McLaughlin missed the first free throw and Portsmouth called timeout after securing the rebound.
The Trojans were able to get to the rim but a layup attempt rimmed out and the rebound was snagged by McLaughlin as Lynchburg-Clay head coach Matt Carson called timeout.
Carson said that he told the team during the final timeout that “our path is going to be victory” while referencing a verse from The Bible that he had read earlier in the day.
The ensuing Mustang possession saw McLaughlin get fouled again and earn an opportunity to ice the game for his team. McLaughlin stepped to the line and coolly sank both shots to secure the victory for Lynchburg-Clay.
The Trojans were led in scoring by Johnson who finished with 15 points and netted four triples on the night, including two in the fourth as the Trojans tried to catch the Mustangs.
Jordan also contributed double digit points for Portsmouth with 11, D.J. Eley and Matthew Fraulini contributed eight points apiece.
Lynchburg-Clay had three players in double figures as Pierson and Conner each finished with 10 points on the night and McLaughlin finished with 23 points to lead all scorers.
Carson talked after the game about the approach his team has taken this season.
“We wanted to take each day one day t a time this year and really enjoy the moment. I’m just so proud of these kids. We never really stressed all year like, ‘let’s get to the Convo.’ We just stressed playing our best basketball at this time of year and these kids have bought in. They are very selfless individuals and I just really enjoy being around them,” said Carson.
The Mustangs will travel to the Convo in Athens on Saturday to take on the Wheelersburg Pirates in the D III District Semi-Finals at 4:45 p.m.
Lynchburg-Clay: Pierson 2(2)-10; McLaughlin 2(5)-4/5-23; Hilt 2-4; Conner 5-10; Smith 0/2-0
Portsmouth: Eley 2(1)-1/1-8; Fraulini 1(2)-8; Jordan 4-3/4-11; Johnson 1(4)-1/1-15
Reach Ryan Applegate at 937-402-2572, or on Twitter @RCApplegate89.