JACKSON — Tanner Holden recorded a double-double, scoring a team-high 27 points to go along with 12 rebounds — while also notching a game-high three dunks — as the third-seeded Wheelersburg Pirates picked up a victory over No. 14 Rock Hill in a division III Sectional Semifinal match at Jackson High School.
Wheelersburg (17-5) grabbed the lead from the opening tip and never relinquished control. However, despite being pleased with the outcome, Pirates head coach Steven Ater still found several areas of his team’s game he wanted to address afterwards.
“I thought we lacked energy at times,” Ater said. “When we turned it on, I thought we were OK. Tanner (Holden) was good about pushing. Cole (Lowery) did a nice job throwing the ball ahead. Our guys ran the floor well and finished pretty well. I thought there were moments our attention span waned a little bit and we lost focus, especially defensively. I thought we reached to much, we weren’t real disciplined defensively. There are things we can work at and get better at, certainly we better be going forward.
But at this time, any win is a good win.”
The Pirates seemed in control at halftime, leading 34-18, but Rock Hill began the third quarter on a 9-2 run to cut the deficit to single digits.
“I don’t know what it is but third quarters, we have not been able to put team’s away when we should of,” Ater said. “We were up 16 coming out of the break and we let them cut it down to nine at one point. I challenged them at halftime and I challenged them right before we started the third quarter, maybe I just need to quit talking about it I don’t know, because we have not been able to close out victories and get a comfortable lead and be able to relax like we would like to in some games.”
Wheelersburg quickly bounced back, extending it’s lead to 38-27 as Holden drove the lane for his first of three dunks during the game.
“He’s played a lot of basketball and he has an understanding of the ups and downs of a ball game,” Ater said. “He knows when we need a little energetic spurt, and he went and made plays …
“That was the most aggressive I’ve seen him attack the middle. I was very impressed by his ability to do that. He’s only a sophomore. He’s only going to continue to grow. We are going to keep challenging him on the defensive end and on the glass because that’s what he’s going to have to be to be a complete player.”
Holden’s next dunk came at the end of the third quarter on a break away, which was set up by Kaden Coleman who tracked down a loose ball and shoveled the pass ahead as he was falling out of bounds. Wheelersburg led 42-28 after the third quarter.
Coleman finished the game with 13 points and four rebounds. Cole Lowery also had an impact for the Pirates, finishing with 12 points and six boards. Both players drew the praise from Ater after the game for their hustle throughout the night.
“Kaden had a tough night it seemed like offensively, still ended up with double figures, but had a couple balls just roll in and out on him. But the play he made at the end of the third quarter, as a coach, is what makes you proud. Ball is fumbling around, he picks it up and tosses it ahead as he’s falling to the floor and we score at the other end. It’s just so demoralizing for the other team, but it also raised our energy level and kind of made our guys relax a little bit. It’s great to see a senior captain doing that.
“I thought Cole was really good in transition, not only running the ball early but also pushing the ball. He also had six rebounds, so that’s good when you can have two guards that can get the ball off the glass and start the break themselves. Both of those guys, big keys for us getting the victory tonight.”
Despite losing, Rock Hill (3-19) was led by sophomore Mason Darby who scored a game-high 28 points, which included a fade way 3-pointer in the second half.
“Darby is a phenomenal talent,” Ater said. “He’s so tough to guard. He hit a couple of contested threes and you just kind of have to tip your cap to him. He just puts his head down and goes. He’s so big and athletic, he’s a challenge for guys.”
Rock Hill shot 34 percent (16-47) during the game while Wheelersburg hit 47 percent (26-57) of its shots. Rock Hill hit 3-of-17 (17 percent) from behind the arc. Wheelersburg connected on 2-of-15 (13 percent) of its outside shots.
The Pirates out rebounded the Redmen 34 to 24, including 12 offensive rebounds to seven.
Trent Salyers also hit both of Wheelersburg’s 3-pointers as he finished with eight points and three rebounds.
Rock Hill — Darby 10-6-28, Damron 2-1-5, Adkins 2-0-5, Malone 1-2-4, Knipp 1-0-2;
Wheelersburg — Holden 13-1-27, Coleman 5-3-13, Lowery 5-2-12, Salyers 3-0-8, Meadows 0-1-1.
Three-Point Field Goals — Rock Hill 3 (Darby 2, Adkins); Wheelersburg 2 (Salyers 2).
Rock Hill 3-20; Wheelersburg 17-5
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.