WAVERLY — Myquel McKinley wasn’t ready to go home. Not yet.
With Portsmouth trailing West 46-45 in Monday’s Division III sectional semifinal, and just 6.9 seconds left in regulation, the senior forward called for the basketball.
“Our original plan was to get the ball to Matthew [Fraulini], since he is our best player,” McKinley said. “[West] played good defense on him so it didn’t come down to that. Once we got the ball in, I called for it and was like, ‘Hey, it’s time for me to score.’”
So that’s exactly what McKinley did.
When McKinley received the ball from teammate Amare Johnson, he took two steps to his left, spun away from a defender, and watched the ball bounce three times on the rim before falling.
“I had the confidence it was going to go in … and it went in,” McKinley said.
McKinley’s buzzer-beater gave the Trojans (8-15) a 47-46 win, and a new life heading into a sectional final against top-seeded Frankfort Adena.
“This is a huge win. We’ve had a tough year. We’ve went through some growing pains and we’ve took some beatings,” Portsmouth coach Eugene Collins said. “But tonight, our guys didn’t quit. It’s fitting for Myquel McKinley. He’s a guy that’s had a tough time scoring around the hoop. For him to get a bucket to win the game, it’s fitting.”
Not only did McKinley’s shot give Portsmouth the win, it gave the Trojans their first lead since the 2:43 mark in the second quarter. They never led in the second half and played the final four minutes without starting point guard Danny Lattimore, who fouled out.
“I just told our team we had to hang in, one possession at a time,” Collins said. “We kind of changed our defense and started applying pressure, and I think it rattled [West] a little bit. We were able to make just enough plays to survive.”
Back on Dec. 22, the Senators (6-16) beat the Trojans by a 61-45 final. McKinley said that was a motivator coming into Monday’s contest.
“I don’t even know,” McKinley said. “It all happened at once. But we came into this game seeking revenge for the regular season loss. We played hard out there. At the end, I was just thinking, ‘I ain’t going home yet.’”
Tale of the tape
Out of the gate, Portsmouth took a 5-0 lead on a 3 from Fraulini and a bucket from Miles Shipp. But West’s Jesse Johnson scored five consecutive points to tie the game at the 3:25 mark in the first quarter. Lattimore then gave Portsmouth a 9-5 edge before Johnson hit a 3, cutting the lead to 9-8 at the end of the first quarter.
The two continued to trade punches in the second before the Senators took a 21-19 lead with 2:00 to go thanks to another bucket from Johnson. With 1:21 left, Nick Davis hit one of two free throws to round out a halftime score of 22-19 in West’s favor.
The Senators maintained that lead throughout the third quarter, building leads of 26-21 and 34-27 before heading into the final eight minutes with a 34-29 advantage.
Johnson scored again with 4:22 left in regulation to put West ahead 41-35. But behind McKinley and Fraulini, the Trojans inched to within two at 43-41 before tying the game at 43. Davis then put the Senators ahead, 45-43, with 1:15 left before the two teams traded free throw attempts.
With 8.3 seconds left, Fraulini hit the back end of a pair of free throws to set the stage for Mr. McKinley.
McKinley led the Trojans in scoring with 15 points alongside six rebounds while Lattimore added 13 points, four rebounds and four assists. Fraulini followed with 12 points of his own.
For West, Bradford ended the evening with 14 points while Jesse Johnson scored 12. Nick Davis was also a factor, scoring 12 points and grabbing a team-high eight rebounds.
What’s on tap
While West ends its season, Portsmouth will meet with Adena in a Division III sectional final at 6 p.m., Friday at Waverly’s Downtown Gym. The top-seeded Warriors bring in a 16-6 record after finishing second in the Scioto Valley Conference race.
“If you would’ve came to practice this week, you’d have never known this team was 7-15 coming in,” Collins said. “The kids are positive, working hard. We were realistic. We play in a tough conference and we knew we’d take some whippings this year. But we took them, preparing for days like today. We’ll continue to play the underdog role, and just ride this wave.”
West: 8-14-12-12 — 46
Portsmouth: 9-10-10-18 — 47
West: 13-40 FG, 15-23 FT, 5-12 3pt., 23 rebounds (Davis 8), 11 turnovers, 6 assists (Davis 2). Scoring: Bradford 14, Johnson 12, Davis 10, Bauer 7, Berry 3.
Portsmouth: 17-46 FG, 4-11 FT, 9-17 3pt., 23 rebounds (McKinley 6, Shipp 6), 14 turnovers, 6 assists (Lattimore 4). Scoring: McKinley 15, Lattimore 13, Fraulini 12, Roe 5, Shipp 2.