MINFORD — Wheelersburg’s final Southern Ohio Conference Division II game of the 2020 calendar year — a 42-34 road win over Minford — was a pre-Christmas gift for the Pirates.
More business-like than your typical unwrapping event, both teams’ defensive efforts resulted in Tuesday’s contest being the lowest-scoring boys game between Scioto County teams so far this season.
Although it was Minford’s Drew Skaggs whose buzzer-beating layup gave it a 16-14 halftime lead, it was the Pirates which held the Falcons to just 18 second-half points — while scoring a game-best 17 in the fourth quarter alone.
In doing so, Wheelersburg (5-0, 5-0 SOC II) continued its unbeaten start, while simultaneously holding off Minford’s chances at winning back-to-back games for the first time all year.
“I was really happy defensively. To go on the road in the league, against a really good offensive team, and hold them to 34 points, I’m really pleased with that effort,” Wheelersburg coach Steven Ater said. “Give them credit, we couldn’t get in a rhythm or flow, couldn’t make any perimeter shots it seemed like all night. It was a physical game, battled with us and had a lead at halftime. But I thought our kids came out and responded really well in the second half.”
Both teams combined for five made threes and five free throws in the defensive slugfest, as two-point makes accounted for the remaining 56 points scored.
Minford’s and Wheelersburg’s leading scorers for the season — Trenton Zimmerman and J.J. Truitt respectively — were both held scoreless in the first half.
Unofficially, Wheelersburg forced 18 Minford turnovers, while committing 10 of its own.
The Falcons did edge the Pirates on the glass — outrebounding their guests 21-18 by game’s end.
Holding Zimmerman to a season-low four points after the junior forward combined for 56 in the Falcons’ two contests against West a week ago was certainly a positive takeaway from an all-around significant defensive effort.
“You’ve just got to make sure you’re not leaving a shooter like that open. And he’s going more inside, getting baskets there,” Ater said. “I thought Gage Adkins did a fantastic job on the block when they got him the ball inside the paint. Defensively, I thought our guys were pretty locked-in and focused to guard the drive.”
Truitt finished with a team-high 13 after being held scoreless through the first 16 minutes — just four days after scoring his 1,000th career point at the varsity level.
Junior Eli Swords hit one of two Pirate made threes in the fourth quarter to finish with nine points, as seniors Matthew Miller and Carter McCorkle had eight apiece in the win.
“The thing about J.J., he didn’t look frustrated or down — he’s been there. That’s what a senior that’s been through so many battles is going to bring,” Ater said. “The first half it didn’t happen, able to learn from some of the things they were doing. We managed to get to the basket in the second half, knock down a few threes, get out in transition. Kind of keep them off our heels just enough and did a good job handling the pressure at the end of the game.”
Tuesday’s win means the Pirates will kick off the new year having their 14-game conference winning streak challenged at Waverly’s Downtown Arena against the Tigers on Jan. 5 (2021).
Prior to that on Tuesday (Dec. 29), Wheelersburg will travel to Huntington for a non-league game after the cancellation of its yearly game versus Ironton.
For the Pirates, and all area teams in the early-season stages, the focus is to keep playing and — more importantly — getting better.
“We’ve got to get better. Offensively we’ve got some things to clean up like better ball movement,” Ater said. “We’ve got good shooters and it just didn’t fall tonight, but it didn’t fall for them either. And that’s what we’ve told our team — if we just keep guarding, keep digging in, we’ll be in any game.”
Wheelersburg 6 8 11 17 — 42
Minford 5 11 5 13 — 34
WHEELERSBURG 42 (5-0, 5-0 SOC II)
Aaron Jolly 1 0-0 2, Matthew Miller 4 0-0 8, Eli Swords 4 0-0 9, Carter McCorkle 4 0-0 8, J.J. Truitt 5 2-4 13, Gage Adkins 0 0-2 0, Kenny Sanderlin 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 19 2-6 42; Three-point field goals: 2 (J.J. Truitt and Eli Swords 1 apiece)
MINFORD 34 (3-3, 2-3 SOC II)
Trenton Zimmerman 2 0-0 4, Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 5 1-1 13, Skyler Knore 1 0-0 3, Matthew Risner 4 0-0 8, Drew Skaggs 1 0-0 2, Levi Coriell 1 0-0 2, Adam Crank 0 2-4 2; TOTALS 14 3-5 34; Three-point field goals: 3 (Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 2, Skyler Knore 1)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved