MINFORD — They say that shooters shoot, and the Minford Falcons first shot themselves into a lead —before shooting themselves into a hole, and ultimately and furiously back into it and finally right down to the wire.
However, that shooting lull loomed large for the Falcons over the middle two quarters on Tuesday night —and eventually Minford’s fiery comeback bid against the tall, talented and highly-touted Waverly Tigers fell just short.
Trailing by as much as 14 points (58-44) with only three-and-a-half minutes remaining, the Falcons forged an incredible comeback and wiped Waverly’s lead entirely out —but Minford missed too many shots throughout en route to a nail-biting but heartbreaking 62-59 Southern Ohio Conference Division II defeat inside the Falcons’ Nest.
With the loss, the Falcons fell to 8-5 —and to 7-5 in the SOC II, which all but eliminates them from the division championship chase.
Wheelersburg, with one win apiece already over both Waverly and Minford, remains atop the league at 11-0 —and one more conference victory by the Pirates will officially end the Falcons’ remote title hopes.
Waverly, with the win, not only completes the season sweep of the Falcons —but keeps the Tigers close behind Wheelersburg as the calendar flips to February.
The Tigers are now 6-2 in the SOC II, part of 9-3.
In the initial meeting at Waverly’s Downtown Arena three weeks ago, the Tigers grounded the Falcons for only two second-period points —en route to a 53-44 Waverly win.
On Tuesday, while the Falcons fired up 29 three-pointers and swished on 11, it wasn’t until — after Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis landed all four of his in the opening quarter — the second half when Minford made good on its final seven.
Once again, the second quarter proved to be Minford’s undoing — as the Tigers took the lead for good at 18-17, erasing the Falcons’ largest lead at 17-14 just 18 seconds in.
Waverly held the lead for the final 22 minutes and 40 seconds, outscoring the Falcons 19-8 in the period —and maintaining anywhere from a five-point (22-17 at 5:43) to 13-point (51-38 at end of third quarter) margin over the next nearly 19 minutes.
But facing a 58-44 deficit with merely 3:33 remaining, the Falcons stormed back with a 15-4 spree to end the game.
Adam Crank cranked it up in the fourth quarter, connecting on three three-balls including his first from the corner pocket to make it 53-44.
Then, just 30 seconds apart inside the two-minute mark, Crank canned his other two trifectas back-to-back — for a 58-54 deficit and only a minute and 27 seconds remaining.
Skyler Knore knocked down a trey to get the Falcons to within 60-57 with 58 seconds showing, as the Tigers then missed a one-and-one free-throw situation —and Crank converted a two-pointer for a 60-59 deficit only 30 seconds later.
But without any timeouts, the Tigers forced the Falcons to foul junior scoring machine Trey Robertson —who poured in a game-high 20 points on three twos, two first-quarter threes and 8-of-9 foul shots.
Robertson recorded an old-fashioned three-point play in the opening canto, but by far his most impactful points on Tuesday came at the charity stripe.
He meshed five of six in that final eight minutes, although none were bigger than his pair of one-and-one tosses to make it 62-59.
Minford then held for the final shot, trying to get a good look for a game-tying three-pointer, but Waverly once again kept the paint dry and spaced the Falcons out on the perimeter —and their undesired attempt as the clock expired fell off the mark.
Minford coach Josh Shoemaker explained the final Falcons’ possession, and knew it would take a three to tie.
“We were trying to get to the rim for a kick-out for a three or a quick two. But they switched screens and widened us out. I thought we had two opportunities for a look there at the end, but guys made the pass instead of taking the shot,” said Shoemaker. “And we were out of timeouts there too. Our kids did a great job of battling back from down 14 at one point. We got down one, and we foul (Trey) Robertson and put him on the line and he is just automatic. We know we’re going to be down three there.”
How did the Falcons find themselves staring such a deficit you ask?
Shoemaker said the Tigers, with their often tenacious on-ball pressure, spread the Falcons out —and took Trenton Zimmerman away.
The six-foot four-inch inside-out standout Zimmerman, who did lead the Falcons for scoring with 17 points, shot 2-of-9 in the first half — despite scoring seven points on the strength of 3-of-6 free throws.
In addition, Vogelsong-Lewis —after his four first-quarter triples which rallied the Falcons from an 8-1 deficit all the way to a 16-14 lead —didn’t score again until his two deuces in the fourth.
Zimmerman shot 6-of-21 while Vogelsong-Lewis went 6-of-12 and 4-of-7 from distance, while Zimmerman made only 2-of-11 from three-point territory.
As team, the Falcons shot 21-of-53 for 40-percent —with 38-percent (11-of-29) coming on the three-point goals.
Zimmerman did grab a team-high 13 rebounds, but the Falcons moved him outside the lane to play offense in the second half.
“Waverly did a good job of widening us out and their pressure is great. Our first three possessions in the third quarter, I don’t believe we even got a shot. They crawled up in us and we turned it over against their press for layups. We dug ourselves a hole,” said Shoemaker. “We tried to get the ball to Zimmerman down low, and he was 2-of-9 in the first half with most of his shots inside.”
Instead, Zimmerman took his game outside the arc, tallying 10 third-period points on two deuces and two treys.
“We started running a ball-screen offense a lot, where we were just trying to get in and kick out,” said Shoemaker.
The strategy worked, as —in addition to Zimmerman’s third-quarter two and Crank’s fourth-quarter three —Knore and Risner rained in their respective triples.
Shoemaker said it ultimately was a matter of just making shots.
“We really struggled inside and they had a lot of size on us. But Trenton and Adam Crank got hot hitting shots in the second half. Matthew Risner and Skyler Knore made threes in the fourth quarter,” said the coach. “But it was all just from penetrating and kicking out. We only really have (Zimmerman) who is big to go inside. So our kids did a good job of finally knocking down shots and getting us back in the game.”
The Falcons found themselves out of the game in the second and third stanzas, when Robertson had just two free throws in the second and a bucket in the third —but big men Will Futhey (6-5, jr.) and Zeke Brown (6-3, sr.) bagged 30 points between them.
Brown began the pull-away with 2:50 to play in the second, when Gage Wheeler launched a three —and an unboxed and unabridged Brown flew to the rim from the back side, and put back a thunderous slam dunk.
His untouched throwdown electrified the Tiger faithful in attendance, and indeed energized his teammates —as the next two Tiger possessions resulted in fast-paced and hard-charging transition baskets by Futhey and Brown off rebounds and outlet passes by Robertson.
That made it 31-21, and although the usual suspect Robertson got his traditional 20-plus points, Shoemaker said the play of Waverly’s interior “was the win”.
Brown bucketed 19 points on nine field goals and a free throw — off an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 43-32 halfway through the fourth.
Futhey finished with 11 on five baskets —and a split of first-quarter foul shots.
“Trey (Robertson) makes five shots and was 8-of-9 at the line and we hold him to 20, so we count that as a victory. But Brown and Futhey, especially in that second quarter, did a nice job attacking underneath our zone. And they did a good job finishing at the basket too,” said Shoemaker. “After the Brown dunk, honestly, we had two or three transition trips where we just didn’t get back on defense and had to burn a couple of timeouts. We were battling just to compete there for a little bit.”
But battle back the Falcons forged a way —and it ultimately came down to the final shot which fell short.
Besides the 17 from Zimmerman, 16 from Vogelsong-Lewis and 11 in the final quarter from Crank — Risner, Knore and Drew Skaggs scored five points apiece.
Only seven Falcons played, while Waverly played just six.
Shoemaker said he “loved” his Falcons’ “energy”, but still successful shooting is indeed their key to victories.
“We have to cut out some mistakes, but the biggest thing is that we have to make shots,” he said. “Zimmerman and Crank combined to go 2-of-14 in the first half. In the second half, they got going. We have four guys who can definitely score, so when we get that consistency and make shots and put it together, we can play with anybody. When we have those lulls where we don’t make shots, it really kills us.”
* * *
Waverly 14 19 18 11 — 62
Minford 16 8 14 21 — 59
WAVERLY 62 (9-3, 6-2 SOC II)
Mark Stulley 1 0-1 2, Gage Wheeler 2 0-0 5, Trey Robertson 5 8-9 20, Will Futhey 5 1-2 11, Zeke Brown 9 1-2 19, Phoenix Wolf 2 1-2 5; TOTALS 24 6-11 62; Three-point field goals: 3 (Trey Robertson 2, Gage Walker 1)
MINFORD 59 (8-5, 7-5 SOC II)
Trenton Zimmerman 6 3-6 17, Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 6 0-0 16, Skyler Knore 1 2-2 5, Matthew Risner 2 0-0 5, Drew Skaggs 2 1-2 5, Levi Coriell 0 0-0 0, Adam Crank 4 0-0 11; TOTALS 21 6-10 59; Three-point field goals: 11 (Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 4, Adam Crank 3, Trenton Zimmerman 2, Matthew Risner and Skyler Knore 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved