For the second straight game, the Lynchburg-Clay Mustangs (23-2) have come out in the second half and absolutely dominated their opponents. That’s what happened on Saturday night at the Ohio University Convocation center as the Mustangs captured a district championship with a 73-62 win over the Fairland Dragons.
As the game started on Saturday night, it seemed like the Dragons had the upper hand as they mounted a 23-16 lead over Lynchburg. In the second quarter, Lynchburg’s saving grace was Christian Inman. Inman came in on fire and scored his first basket at the 7:28 mark. The Mustangs only scored 16 points total against their opponents, who scored 21. 12 of those 16 points came from Inman, who made two threes and another two twos after his first basket. Inman’s efforts kept the Mustangs within 12 going into the half 44-32, in a game where the score could have been much worse.
In the third quarter, a whole new Lynchburg team came out to play. The Mustangs started the quarter on a 9-0 run with baskets from Zach Blankenship, two from River Mullins, and a three from Joe Giordano. This brought them back to within three points with 6:20 to go in the third. Fairland finally got their scoring started and were able to stay just ahead of the Mustangs, finding a way to score when it was needed and at the end of three quarters, the Mustangs had barreled back to within four at 56-52.
The fourth quarter was the most likely the quarter of the season for the Mustangs. Fairland’s big man Kollin VanHorn led off the quarter with two quick baskets to put his team up by eight at 60-52. Lynchburg finally got on the board at the 6:44 mark with a basket from Giordano to make it 60-54, but Fairland answered right back, again with VanHorn to go back up 62-54 with 6:23 to go in the game. That is when the Mustangs really turned it on. From that basket at the 6:23 mark, the Mustangs didn’t allow a single basket the rest of the game and went on a scoring spree of their own, starting with a three from Giordano, amassing a 19-0 run to end the quarter to take home a 73-62 win and a district championship.
“We out ourselves in a bad position there in the first half,” said Lynchburg-Clay Head Coach Matt Carson after the game on Saturday. “I thought we outplayed them in the second quarter. I told [the guys] at halftime, three possessions here or there and then we lose a shooter, next thing you know, it goes from being a two or four point game to an 11 point game. If it wasn’t for Christian Inman, and everyone on the team concurred, we’re down a lot more at halftime. Then, when we cut it to four in the third quarter, I thought, okay, we’re where we want to be. They pushed it to 60-52 there at the beginning of the fourth but after that we just executed and locked it down. The kids stepped up and took charges, made plays. I mean what else can you say about this group. They’ve been digging down all year. We’ve battled adversity. We’ve played in three overtime games, one of them going into a fourth overtime. It’s just a great feeling and I’m so happy for these kids.
“This is a good basketball team we just beat. I hope people realize that. I heard about them all week and they lived up to their billing. I think the thing that people counted out all week, not out community, not us and the kids in the locker room, but the some of the people who wanted to pick this game as far as who was going to win, there’s one thing you can’t work out on paper and that’s heart. These kids wanted this. From the time we came down here last Sunday to today, they wanted this. They wanted this since last year and they support each other and I’m just extremely proud of them.”
Lynchburg will play the winner of Chesapeake and Valley on Wednesday, March 9 at 6:15 p.m. at the Convocation Center in the Div. III Regional Semifinals.
“We’re going to be playing a quality team,” said Carson on his team’s next opponent. “We’re going to have to be ready to play.”
LCHS – 16 16 20 21 – 73
FHS – 23 21 12 6 – 62
Lynchburg-Clay: Pierson 8 7/8 – 23; Giordano 5(3) 2/5 – 21; Inman 3(2) 0/2 – 12; McLaughlin 1(1) 2/2 – 7; Mullins 2 2/2 – 6; Blankenship 1 2/4 – 4. Totals: 20(6) 15/23 – 73.
Fairland: VanHorn 8 1/2 – 17; Short 2(3) 2/4 – 15; Howell 3(1) 1/2 – 10; Thomas 2(1) – 7; Staten 2 2/4 – 6; Cunningham 2 – 4; James (1) – 3. Totals: 19(6) 6/12 – 62.
Reach Robert Stegbauer at 937-393-3456 ext. 1679 or on Twitter @RStegbauer.