For the first time in 23 years, the Lynchburg-Clay Mustangs (22-2) are heading to a district championship game after defeating Wheelersburg (16-7) in the district semi finals game 64-48.
As the game started at the Ohio University’s Convocation center on Sunday in front of hundreds of cheering fans from both sides, the Mustangs came out a little sluggish compared to their usual starts. Devin Pierson scored seven of his 18 total in the first quarter to keep the Mustangs ahead at the end of the first with a score of 13-10.
In the second quarter, the Mustangs were outscored by the Pirates of Wheelersburg 16-14, which left Lynchburg with just a one point lead heading into halftime, 27-26.
Two big players missing from the equation for the Mustangs were Joe Giordano and Eric McLaughlin. Giordano only netted one bucket in the whole first 16 minutes, while McLaughlin failed to even get on the board.
At halftime, everything changed.
In the third quarter, the Mustangs went on a charge scoring 20 points in all, 17 of them from Giordano and McLaughlin, while holing the Pirates to just 11. The quarter started with a basket from Wheelersburg which was promptly followed up with a three pointer from way downtown by Giordano. Lynchburg’s Devin Pierson went 2-of-2 from the line before the Pirates answered with a two of their own to make it 32-30. On Lynchburg;s next two possessions Giordano, feeling the hot hand made a layup and followed that up with another three pointer to make it 37-30 in favor of the Mustangs. Wheelersburg tried to make up some ground with a basket but Giordano came right back and answered with one of his own. With 4:28 to go, McLaughlin finally broke into the scoring column and proceeded to make his next two in a row to give him six points in the quarter and at the end of the third, Lynchburg was up by ten, 47-37.
In the fourth quarter, McLaughlin and Giordano added seven points to their totals with Pierson adding a free throw and Zach Blankenship chipping in two of his own, to total 17 points in the quarter while the Mustangs defense held the Pirates to 11 once again, bringing home a win and a shot at a district championship in the next game.
“I’m going to give credit where it’s due,” said Lynchburg-Clay Head Coach Matt Carson after the game. “These guys, since the end of last year, said anything less than the opportunity to play for a district championship wouldn’t do. They did an excellent all week in practice. They’re just gamers and they battle it out. I can’t tell you how proud I am for them and our community. Here we are all the way up in Athens and we had more black and gold in the seats than Wheelersburg fans. That says something. We’re going to need even more of those colors next Saturday. We need everybody that is in the precinct of Lynchburg-Clay to get here and wear their black and gold. We’ll be playing a good basketball team but we’re a great basketball team and we’ll come out here Saturday and see what happens after 32 minutes.
“Credit [Wheelersburg]. In the second quarter they did what we didn’t expect them to do to us and that was to push the ball out a little on us and we didn’t get back. I don’t know if that was because we were on a bigger floor or what, but there were a couple times where [Wheelersburg] had some four-on-ones. Wheelersburg is a good basketball team and a physical one. We knew we’d have to be physical coming in here to win and we were. It was just a great team effort. I cannot say enough how proud I am of all 15 of these guys.
“When you have you’re seniors leading the scouting reports and guys holding each other accountable, that’s when you know you’ve arrived. That’s what coaching, teaching and parenting is all about. When the kids take ownership of themselves and everything that they’re doing. They did that at halftime and they did that before the game. It made for a great execution.”
The Lynchburg Mustangs will now face off against Fairland on next Saturday, March 5 right back at the Convo at 6 p.m.
LCHS – 13 14 20 17 – 64
WHS – 10 16 11 11 – 48
Lynchburg-Clay: Giordano 5(3) 1/2 – 20; Pierson 4(2) 4/4 – 18; McLaughlin 5(1) – 13; Blankenship 2 4/4 – 8; Mullins 1 1/2 – 3; Inman 1 – 2. Totals: 18(6) 10/15 – 64
Wheelersburg: Bivens 6 1/2 – 13; Holden 4 4/9 – 12; Coleman 4 – 8; Lotespeich 3 2/2 – 8; Davis 2(1) – 7. Totals: 19(1) 7/13 – 48
Reach Robert Stegbauer at 937-393-3456 ext. 1679 or on Twitter @RStegbauer.