PDT Sports Contributor
ATHENS — A tremendous season has come to a conclusion for the Wheelersburg Pirates as they dropped their regional semifinal contest to the Columbus Bishop Ready Silver Knights 47-35 Wednesday night at the Convocation Center on Ohio University’s campus in Athens.
Though Wheelersburg’s season is finished, first-year coach Steven Ater is extremely proud of his team as a whole, especially considering the odds against them.
“I could talk about 15 guys, really more than that, 17 guys, because we had a couple get injured,” Ater said. “Instead of talking about one or two individuals, it’s really about the heart of the team. They faced incredible adversity and odds this year: the football team goes to the regional finals, so we get started three weeks late, we’ve got a bunch of young guys and a few older guys with a new system and new coach coming in, we lose our point guard halfway through the season and had to slide Dylan over, and really it takes away some of what he did best on the wing,”
Ater specifically praised his seniors’ effort this season.
“There’s seven seniors in that locker room who just played their last game as Pirates, and we’re extremely proud of them because they got the program back to the Sweet 16 … These seniors are leaving with a winner’s legacy,” Ater said.
Jacob Spradlin led the Pirates in the defeat with 11 while Austin May contributed 10 points. Also contributing for Wheelersburg were J.D. Widdig with 7 points.
The Silver Knights’ defensive pressure was the deciding factor in the game, forcing 23 turnovers and 14 steals. The Knights scored 20 points off the turnovers compared to two for the Pirates, and added six fast break points to Wheelersburg’s zero as well.
“Really throughout the whole game, their pressure just took us out of what we wanted to run offensively and created turnovers,” Ater said. “That got them easy baskets…when you have teams that can create easy shots on you, and we’re struggling, you have to walk a fine line. Anytime you kind of misstep and turn it over, your balance teeters,”
Regardless, Wheelersburg kept it close throughout the first half, down just three at the intermission, by a score of 22-19.
“We were down a basket at halftime, and they came out and pushed the lead up towards the end of the third quarter,” Ater said. “We just couldn’t make enough plays or make enough shots to kind of be able to make it over that hump and get back in control. We weren’t the best team playing from behind all year, we’re not a high-powered team that can create easy baskets so we have to kind of grind, and we weren’t able to do that,”
Wheelersburg was never able to take the lead, and tied Bishop Ready only once, which occured early in the game.
However, despite the offensive struggle, Wheelersburg shot better than Bishop Ready in the loss. The Pirates shot 48.1 percent from the field compared to the Silver Knights who hit 43.5 percent of their shots.
Wheelersburg also had a better night from behind the arc as the Pirates shot 40 percent from behind the three-point line. The Silver Knights only hit 33.3 percent from deep.
However, despite the good-shooting night, the Pirates shot 19 times less than the Knights, going 13-27 to Bishop’s 20-46.
The Silver Knights will face the lone local team remaining in the tournament, the Valley Indians, at 7 p.m on Saturday at the Convocation Center.
Bishop Ready – 14 8 12 13 —- 47
Wheelersburg – 9 10 6 10 —- 35
Bishop Ready – Hanley 4-1-9, Pulsinelli 1-0-2, Gantz 5-1-12, Culbertson 1-0-3, Lee 5-1-12, Holt 1-0-2, Yoho 1-0-2, Fowler 2-0-5, Totals 20-3-47
Wheelersburg – Widdig 3-0-7, Parsley 1-0-2, Miller 1-0-2, Claxon 1-0-2, Spradlin 3-4-11, May 4-0-10, Stevenson 0-1-0, Totals 13-5-35
3-Point Goals – Bishop Ready 4 (Gantz, Culbertson, Lee, Fowler); Wheelersburg 4 (May 2, Widdig, Spradlin)