SOUTH WEBSTER – Despite taking blow after blow from a gritty South Webster squad and trailing after each of the first three quarters, the state’s second ranked team in Division III in the first AP poll that came out on Tuesday, Wheelersburg, escaped ‘The Village’ with a 70-62 road win.
“Give our kids a lot of credit,” said Wheelersburg head coach Steven Ater following his team’s win over the Jeeps, “A lot of resiliency to fight back. I think it was seven there in the third quarter when we called a timeout, it was gut check time.”
That seven point deficit came at the 2:11 mark in the third quarter after Tanner Voiers and Braden Bockway, the Jeeps two leading scorers with 19 and 16 respectively, hit four out of five threes to give South Webster a 45-38 lead.
But just like that, the lead shrunk quick and momentum shifted at the blink of an eye.
Wheelersburg would go on to put up 26 points in the fourth quarter, eleven of which came from Tanner Holden and eight of which came from Connor Mullins, outscoring the home South Webster team 26-14 in the final quarter of play.
But the first player that Ater would mention wouldn’t be Holden or Mullins, it was Ashton Clevenger, who upon entering Tuesday night’s game hit a huge three and took a charge under the basket that helped solidify that momentum swing in the Pirates favor.
“Ashton Clevenger was huge for us tonight in the fourth quarter,” said Ater. “I keep telling our guys, we’ve got nine of you. We can rotate and play and to be ready because your number might get called. He really did that tonight, so I’m proud of him for that.”
Ater mentioned that he felt like his guys settled more often than he would have liked in the early goings but says that’s a testament to how well South Webster shot the ball and how they defended them early on.
“It was like we were going to answer everything with a three early on. Give them credit, it felt like everything they shot went it. Every ball kind of bounced their way. We traded blows back and forth, and then things started to go our way late, and we were able to stretch that from hitting a three to tie it, to leading by three to five to seven. At that point you realize that it’s a three possession game and it’s going to take more than one shot to beat you. I thought our kids did a good job of pulling it out at the end and give them a lot of credit for fighting.”
Moving forward, a big road win over South Webster and Waverly beating Oak Hill gives the Pirates (10-0, 6-0 SOC II) a two game cushion in the race for an SOC II title and an undefeated regular season, two things that Ater hasn’t yet accomplished since he began roaming the sidelines for the Pirates.
“We’ve been tagged with an early loss or so in the first half of the league in years past,” said Ater, “It seems like we’re always a little behind after football playoffs. Our guys were able to knock that rust off this year. Our experience is definitely helping, our guys knew what it took to turn the corner from years past. There’s a ton of things I could harp on tonight, that’s what coaches do. But we are so good in transition, and to get out in transition you have to get more stops and rebound the ball, a couple of things we didn’t do so well tonight. Give our guys credit for coming out on top, I told them we’re going to get everybody’s best shot and that’s back to back games where we’ve done that and come out on top.”
Wheelersburg: 12-16-16-26 – 70
South Webster: 14-15-19-14 – 62
Wheelersburg: 23 FG, 8 3PT (T. Salyers 3), 16/17 FT. Scoring: Holden 33, Mullins 10, T. Salyers 9, J.J. Truitt 7, Miller 6, Clevenger 5
South Webster: 23 FG, 10 3PT (Bockway 4), 6/8 FT. Scoring: Voiers 19, Bockway 16, Blevins 11, Zimmerman 8, J. Ruth 8
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT