PORTSMOUTH – The day after Christmas may mean a lot of returned unwanted Christmas gifts, but in Portsmouth, it meant a great day of high school basketball at the Wendy’s Classic at Portsmouth High School. In the opening game of the Wendy’s Classic, the Wheelersburg Pirates met the Washington Blue Lions, formerly known as the Washington Court House Blue Lions.
With the help of Max Knisley, the Blue Lions defeated the Pirates 75-52, Saturday afternoon.
Knisley racked up 36 points against the Pirates, highlighted by hitting five three-pointers during the game.
The Pirates were led by Kade Coleman, who finished the afternoon with 15 points, and shot 75% from the free throw line.
Wheelersburg had seven other players score during the game, including Tanner Holden and Kyle Davis, who each ended the game with seven points, tied for second most point totals of the day.
Effort was the key word for Wheelersburg basketball coach Steven Ater, in his postgame comments.
“Effort wasn’t good enough in any capacity,” Ater said. “Against a good opponent, you’re going to get the result that we did.”
Wheelersburg’s inability to contain double penetration, positioning, and handling the pressure by Washington, were a few of the key reasons the Pirates were unable to walk away with a victory over the Blue Lions.
“Their pressure made us turn it over, and we weren’t very solid with the ball,” Ater said.
Ater also said his team wan unable to get open to create opening for the guards to move the ball into the post or out on the perimeter.
“To beat good teams, to beat most teams, you have got to have better intensity and effort than we showed here today,” Ater said. “That’s the disappointing part for us. We just have to get back to work, and see if we can fix some of those problems.”
It was a new problem for the Pirates, as Ater said effort hasn’t really been a problem for his team so far this season.
“Execution has been more of our problem,” Ater said. “Tonight, effort became execution problems, and when that happens, you have no chance against good opponents.”
The Pirates showed signs of a comeback a few times during the game.
Early in the second quarter, Holden came up with a huge block on Washington, and then proceeded to hit a layup to tie the game at 17-17, erasing a brief Washington run made against Wheelersburg.
Late in the second quarter, Coleman put up a shot and was fouled. His basket was good, putting the Pirates within one point of the Blue Lions, and then hit his free throw shot to tie the game 28-28, with just over two minutes left in the half.
The last two minutes of the first half, and the first few minutes of the second half, ultimately wrote the narrative of the game for Wheelersburg.
The Blue Lions went on an eight point run to end the first half, leading 36-28. Their momentum carried over into the third quarter, where Washington started another run, this time worth six points. The Blue Lion run was eventually ended by a Davis three-pointer with 6:38 left in the quarter.
“You know, we got it tied there with about two minutes to go before halftime, and we told them at that point it was our run or their run right now,” Ater said. “Obviously they made a run before halftime, and then we talked again at halftime about making sure we respond and make our run right here, and then we gave them six straight points to start the third quarter.”
“A loss is a loss whether it was Tuesday night or today,” Ater added. “Today’s loss was disappointing, just from an effort standpoint.”
Wheelersburg Pirate Austin Lotspeich ended up leaving the game for an undisclosed reason with only a few minutes left in the game. He finished the game with six points, and missed both of his free throw attempts.
Up next for the Pirates will be the Jackson Ironmen Saturday at Wheelersburg High School.
Wheelersburg – Coleman 6-3-15, Holden 3-0-7, Davis 2-2-7, Lotspeich 3-0-6, Lewis 2-0-5, Bivens 2-0-4, Dyer 2-0-4, Newsome 2-0-4
3-point field goals – Wheelersburg 3 (Holden, Davis, Lewis)
Reach Michael Hamilton at 740-353-3101, ext 1931, or on Twitter @MikeHamilton82.