RICHMOND DALE — Worthington Christian senior Drew Faieta’s only two made shots of the game were, by far, the biggest of the contest.
Faieta, who was the Warriors third-man off the bench in their Division III regional semifinal versus Wheelersburg, was mobbed by his teammates in post-game celebration after making not only the game-tying, but also the go-ahead three pointer in the game’s final two minutes.
The two-made shots were the game’s only points in the last few minutes, helping cap a 12-0 run by the Warriors and end Wheelersburg’s postseason run short of the goal of all teams — surviving and advancing.
It was the Warriors which wound up 50-47 winners, moving on to Saturday’s regional title tilt and left the Pirates wondering how it all happened.
“One of those situations where you’re going to have to give up something if you’re playing zone. Trying to cover everything, kids did a fantastic job with it. Give the kid (Faieta) a ton of credit for hitting tough shots,” ‘Burg coach Steven Ater said, after the game. “The one (game-tying), the ball falls right in his hands in shooting motion off the offensive rebound. What do you do in a tie game when you’ve got a guard as good as (DJ) Moore is? You put him in a downhill situation and a lot can happen. You pick your poison and you make him give it up, and give him credit for hitting it.”
Wheelersburg’s nine-point advantage — the game’s largest by either team — reached its’ peak on a Kenny Sanderlin three with 4:25 to play.
From there, over the entire back half of the game’s final period, ‘Burg was held scoreless — committing five turnovers in the frame and becoming too “sped up”, Pirates coach Steven Ater said afterwards.
For the game, Wheelersburg committed eight turnovers but shot exactly 50-percent from the field as they led after both the second and third periods.
A layup by WC senior D.J. Moore — a Liberty University commit — just before half cut the Pirates lead to one at 30-29, but a corner three by Eli Swords ahead of the third quarter buzzer kept ‘Burg out in front after three.
“We told them in the timeout that there’s still a lot of game to be played, great players who keep coming at us. Got sped up a little bit, caught in some bad spots,” Ater said. “Man, our kids fought and battled so hard. Feel for them because the ball didn’t drop in the net there at the end, and it did for them.
The back-and-forth affair featured 12 lead changes and three ties, with the Pirates taking the largest lead of nine before the Warriors’ final run.
Sanderlin’s three was part of an eight-point second half performance as no other ‘Burg player scored more than four points in the final 16 minutes.
“Great lift there for us. The one thing we talked about post-game was the sacrifice our guys had made all year long, willingness to accept roles,” Ater said of Sanderlin’s second half. “Kenny’s a very talented player — comes off the bench for us and would be starting for most teams, same thing for Jonah Lawson and Aaron Jolly. Those guys sacrifice minutes to be apart of something special.”
Worthington Christian had advantages on the glass and at the charity stripe, connecting on 10-of-15 free throws and out-rebounding the Pirates 24-17. ‘Burg shot just two-of-eight at the line and attempted one foul shot in the last eight minutes.
Wheelersburg senior Matthew Miller scored a game-high 17 points, including 10 in the second quarter as the Pirates matched the No. 1-ranked Warriors punch for punch in this heavyweight bout.
Carter McCorkle scored 10 of his 12 points during the first half — eight of which came via two-point mid-range jumpers, similar to the one he hit in Friday’s win over Eastern Brown with barely over a minute to play.
The Pirates never looked like the moment of Wednesday’s regional semi clash was too big for them, and rightly so.
This Wheelersburg senior class has been apart of more big games — whether it be on the gridiron, soccer pitch, or hardwood — in their high school careers than most have been in actual games.
“Give our players credit for believing we belonged in this game. I don’t think we were a Cinderella story by any means, our third time in four years being here,” Ater said. “Our kids, they wanted to show this is a team that’s still got a lot of basketball to play. They went out and fought tooth and nail, came up just short.”
Worthington Christian advances to Saturday’s Division III regional title versus the winner of Fort Frye and Fairland back at Larry Jordan Gymnasium inside Southeastern High School.
Wheelersburg will graduate six seniors, including Miller, McCorkle, J.J. Truitt, Gage Adkins, Jonah Lawson and Aaron Jolly — who’ve been apart of three district titles in four seasons and three straight SOC II championships.
Their lasting legacy for the Pirate program will be their preparation for each practice, game, and season, and their overall commitment to the program, Ater said.
“These guys have worked to earn a lot. Thankful for all they’ve done and grateful for the opportunity to have coached these six seniors. You’re talking summers, offseasons — they’re there all the time. We can talk all we want about basketball stuff, but those six kids are special. Great young men who we told our journey together isn’t over tonight.”
Wheelersburg 14 16 10 7 — 47
Worthington Christian 15 14 8 13 — 50
WHEELERSBURG 47 (22-2)
Aaron Jolly 0 0-0 0, Matthew Miller 7 0-0 17, Eli Swords 2 0-2 5, Jonah Lawson 0 0-0 0, Carter McCorkle 6 0-0 12, J.J. Truitt 2 1-3 5, Gage Adkins 0 0-0 0, Kenny Sanderlin 3 1-3 8; TOTALS: 20 2-8 47; Three-point field goals: 5 (Matthew Miller 3, Eli Swords and Kenny Sanderlin 1 apiece); Shooting: 20-40 (5-15 from 3-point); Rebounds: 17; Assists: 9; Turnovers: 8
WORTHINGTON CHRISTIAN 50 (26-1)
D.J. Moore 5 4-6 15, Drew Faieta 2 0-0 6, Kobe Buford 1 0-0 3, Tommy Anthony 0 0-0 0, JaVaun Robinson 0 0-0 0, Tyler Kindberg 6 5-7 17, Sam Johnson 2 1-2 5, Isaiah Hazelwood 2 0-0 4; TOTALS 18 10-15 50; Three-point field goals: 4 (Drew Faieta 2, D.J. Moore and Kobe Buford 1 apiece); Shooting: 18-38 (4-16 from 3-point); Rebounds: 24; Assists: 9; Turnovers: 10
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