WAVERLY — In any contest, all a coach can hope for is the best from his team.
From the effort to the play on the floor, the West Senators’ boys basketball program put together arguably its best contest of the season as West immediately took control by jumping out to a 16-7 first-quarter advantage and held Piketon’s Tanner Perdue to just five first-half points as the Senators remained right in the thick of things with the No. 1-seeded Redstreaks throughout a Division III Sectional Final affair.
Unfortunately for West, Perdue proved just how stellar of a talent that he was in the second half, as the senior’s 22 tallies over the final two stanzas allowed Piketon to rally from the early deficit, and a 43-39 fourth-quarter lead from West, to take home a victory as the Redstreaks defeated the Senators, 64-52, on Friday evening at the Downtown Arena in Waverly.
In Bill Hafer’s eyes, West did everything that it could do in order to emerge victorious in the contest. The play of Perdue just proved to be too much to overcome.
“We battled, we battled, we battled,” Hafer said. “I was scared to death of (Tanner) Perdue, and in the end, he got us. Man, he is a player.”
Over the opening quarter, however, it was the Senators who proved that they had the horses.
From the outset, LT Maynard and Jordan Frasure were on their ‘A’ game as the standout duo put Piketon on its heels in the opening quarter of play. After the Redstreaks sprinted out to a 5-0 lead within the first two minutes of the contest, West answered with a flurry as the senior standouts combined for all 16 of the Senators’ points in the opening quarter of action, with Maynard and Frasure each connecting on a three-ball to allow West to go on 16-2 spurt to end the frame. Throughout the quarter, the pair also provided excellent defensive play, as did Isaiah Norman, Josh Berry, Gabe Skaggs, and Blaine Weaver, as the Senators took the early momentum.
“They’re our starting seniors and our leaders,” Hafer said of Frasure and Maynard. “They’re our one-two punch that we’ve always needed in games. I’m very, very proud of them. We didn’t come out on top tonight, but that’s no fault of theirs whatsoever.”
In the second quarter of action, Piketon stepped up the intensity level as the insertion of Isaac Little into the Redstreaks’ lineup gave Piketon a spark. Behind Little’s scrappiness in the backcourt, the Redstreaks were able to take off on a 9-2 spurt that got Piketon within 20-18.
However, the play of Jessie Johnson, along with West’s excellent defense on Perdue, kept Piketon from taking complete control.
Johnson, who brought a smooth jumper to the table throughout the season, nailed a pair of free throws and knocked down a critical three-pointer from the top of the floor to put the Senators up by a 25-21 tally before the Redstreaks rallied to tie the score at 25 at the halftime break. West’s performance on Perdue in the first half raised eyebrows, including from Hafer himself, who remarked the word ‘wow’ upon hearing the senior forward’s first half scoring total.
“Jessie’s one of those guys that we’re going to be counting on tremendously next year,” Hafer said of Johnson. “He’s going to be one of our main scorers, and he showed it tonight. I’m very proud of him. I look for big things from Jessie in the future.”
As the second half of play commenced, West showed the crowd in attendance that it was in the contest to stay as the Senators, after trading the point with Piketon four times over the opening two minutes of action, took the lead back for the fourth and final time behind a drive and finish from Frasure and a huge three from Dylan Bradford. The critical baskets ultimately kicked off an 11-2 run that gave West its largest lead of the second half, 38-30, with 1:50 to play in the third quarter of action.
“We made a run right there, and played great basketball during the spurt,” Hafer said. “At the same time though, you’re thinking in the back of your head, ‘What’s Tanner going to do? What’s Tanner going to do?’”
And over the final nine and a half minutes of the contest, Perdue completely turned the contest on his heels. The senior forward, who had just six points to his name through the first 22:30 of the affair, began to crash the boards with a relentlessness that was hard to deny, even for how hard West played throughout the affair as the senior nailed a pair of free throws after being fouled on a drive, then obtained an and-one after finishing through contact to cut the lead to a 38-37 margin at the end of the third quarter.
“Tanner’s very tough to keep off of the glass,” Hafer said. “He’s not very big, but we’re not either, and he’s got such strong hands. He’s in contention for the (Scioto Valley Conference) Player of the Year for a reason. I think a lot of him.”
Maynard and Frasure, however, furiously tried to offset that run. Maynard immediately started the quarter by draining a shot from mid-range, then Frasure followed with a huge stepback three over a Redstreak to push West’s lead to 45-43. The former’s fadeaway with 6:11 to play and the latter’s layup in transition with 5:46 to go allowed the Senators to hold that margin.
Unfortunately for West, Perdue and Little proved to be too much. Little, who was strong all game from his off-guard position, scored to tie the game and start an 8-2 run that put the Senators behind by four, 53-47, with three minutes to go as the pair combined for six of the eight points during the run.
Bradford, however, stepped up to supply strong play for West. A steady ballhandler through the night who also created problems with his length on the defensive end of the floor, the 6-2 junior connected on a layup for the only Senator points during the Piketon spurt, then nailed a three after a strong take inside by Josh Berry opened up the floor for a nice kickout to Frasure and a strong pass from the latter to Bradford, who canned the open trey from the left wing to bring West within one, 53-52.
When the Senators fouled Little — who nailed both of his free throws just outside the two-minute mark — West came back on the offensive end and put itself in a situation to tie the contest as Maynard obtained a good look for himself from deep. However, the shot rimmed out, and Perdue answered on the other end with yet another low-post basket after excellent high-low passing from Piketon opened up the floor. Perdue and Little then connected on each of their six free throw attempts as the Redstreaks went 15-of-16 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter — and 25-of-29 from the charity stripe for the contest — to seal the deal.
“We were right there,” Hafer said. “Poor LT had a shot go in and out on him. It was down, it was a three, and at that point, we would’ve tied the game. It just didn’t fall for whatever reason. That’s how the ball bounces sometimes. We had to foul, and they stepped up and made their foul shots. They’re a good team.”
Even in defeat, Hafer was nothing but proud of his four-man senior class, who finished the season with a 9-13 overall mark. Maynard, Frasure, Moore, and Weaver all depart from a program that turned a major corner in Hafer’s first season as head coach, and the future behind it with a young head coaching staff, as well as Bradford, Berry, Johnson, Norman, and Skaggs, among others, coming back, appears to be very bright.
“They, and the entire team, played their hearts out,” Hafer said of his seniors. “They gave every single thing that they got out on the floor. They’re going to be missed so much. We had four seniors, and I’m not sure how we’re going to replace them, to be honest. They all provided a ton of leadership for us. They’ve been with me ever since junior high, and I hate to see them go. They’re all really good basketball players.”
The success and fight seen this season, however, are the cornerstones of what Hafer wants the West Siders to ultimately be about going forward.
“That’s the goal,” Hafer said. “It’s about showing these guys what’s possible. We played hard and we played together. Overall, it was a good year. We could’ve obtained a few more victories, but with how hard we competed every night, I’m not disappointed in the least.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT