There are some buzzsaws that one can combat through hard work.
And despite the height that the Fairland Dragons brought to the table— with 13 of its 14 players over six feet — the Piketon Redstreaks put together their energy and grit to prove all of their detractors wrong on Sunday afternoon at the Convocation Center.
At the end of the day, however, Fairland’s buzzsaw proved to be too hard to disable as Piketon fell by a 74-42 tally to the Dragons in the Athens I District Semifinals on the campus of Ohio University.
For first-year head coach Evan Legg, the loss doesn’t take away from the hard work that Piketon put into the 2016-17 campaign — especially considering that the Redstreaks started the year at 2-7 overall before using a late-season charge to clinch its berth at the Convo.
I told our guys in there in the locker room that I was proud of their effort,” Legg said. “I’m extremely proud of all of them, and they’ve all been very coachable this year. Everything that we’ve asked out of them, they’ve tried their hardest to do, and they’ve accomplished a lot this year. They can’t hang their heads because they’ve done a lot of good stuff this year. When you start a season 2-7, you don’t think that your season is going to end up at the Convo, but these guys fought their tails off, and I’m just extremely proud of them.”
Piketon senior Casey Moore concurs.
“It was a special year,” Moore said. “We got a new head coach (in Evan Legg) this year, and we got off to a rough start as first, but it was honestly the most memorable season of my basketball career. The coaching staff cared so much about us and the players cared so much about each other. It was excellent to see.”
At the beginning of the contest, Piketon used the grit and fight that the Redstreaks have possessed throughout the season to take a 5-4 advantage behind the play of Moore, who used two hard-fought drives down the right side of the lane to obtain a pair of free throws and a bucket that helped put the Redstreaks up by a 5-4 tally with 6:28 to play in the first quarter.
Moore, who eclipsed 1,000 points for his career at the 5:20 mark in the fourth quarter of play, scored a team-high 17 points to finish with 1,006 points during his time in a Piketon uniform.
“I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t in the back of my mind throughout the whole year,” Moore said. “However, I wasn’t going to go out there and shoot every shot, because there’s more important things to be accomplished than me scoring 1,000. I’d rather win and keep my focus on the team-first aspect.”
“It’s an awesome club to be a part of,” Legg added. “I told him in there, ‘Welcome to the club.’ That’s just a good cap to a good career, and he’s had a very good four years here. We’re proud of him. He’s earned the right to be a member of the 1,000-point club. I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.”
Unfortunately for the Redstreaks, the inside-out combination of Kollin Van Horn and Keedrick Cunningham were able to impose their will on the affair.
In the opening quarter alone, Cunningham and Van Horn combined for 13 of Fairland’s 18 tallies in the stanza, with the former scoring six straight points to kickstart a 14-0 Dragons’ run and the latter putting up four blocks in the frame. Tanner Veach, however, came back with a crucial basket — a trey that ended a scoring drought of 5:58 — to cut the Fairland lead to 18-8 after a quarter of play.
That trey also proved to lift Piketon as the second quarter of play began, as the Redstreaks used the penetrating abilites of Moore, Tanner Veach, and Travis Veach, along with the energy of Blake Reader, to keep the deficit relatively neutral as the second quarter of play wound down with Piketon trailing by a 29-18 tally.
However, a trey by Luke Thomas, which put Fairland up by a 32-18 tally at halftime, would mark the beginning of the end for Piketon.
Thomas’ long-range bucket not only carried momentum into the locker room for the Redstreaks, but momentum that was executed into a 21-0 run by Piketon. By the time Travis Veach connected on a layup on the right side of the lane with 3:04 to play in the third quarter, the Dragons had obtained a 50-20 advantage.
Piketon continued to battle even with the deficit, as Veach’s basket would allow the Redstreaks to go on a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to a 50-25 margin, but a 12-4 run by Fairland increased the Dragons’ lead to a 62-29 margin, making the contest a formality.
Still, Legg and can reflect positively on the leadership that Moore, Baden Fuller, Brice Odel, Travis Veach, and Steven Zimmerman brought to the table for the Redstreaks throughout the balance of the season.
“These seniors led us by example so well,” Legg said. “They come in every night and set the bar high for these young guys. The young guys have done a great job of following suit and accepting the leadership that the seniors provided.”
Moore, meanwhile, is proud to have had the experience with his fellow classmates.
“I played with them for 15 years, so it’s hard to see it come to an end,” Moore said. “I wouldn’t trade them or the entire experience for anything.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7