RICHMOND DALE — Charles Dickens authored a “Tale of Two Cities”.
But, consider the following a tale of two stretches.
That’s because in a matter of two days, and in a matter of two games at Southeastern High School, two different stretches throughout —one early and one late —made all the difference in whether Wheelersburg in Division III and/or New Boston in Division IV is playing this weekend for regional championships.
On Tuesday night with the New Boston Tigers and on Wednesday with Wheelersburg’s Pirates, you can indeed point to two scoring stretches — or in these instances, a lack thereof.
As a result, New Boston —by hanging on for dear life in the fourth quarter — survived and advanced with a 50-48 victory over Grandview Heights, while Wheelersburg — in the final four-and-a-half minutes against Worthington Christian — saw its 47-38 advantage evaporate into a stunning 50-47 loss.
We’ll take Tuesday night and the Tigers first, as New Boston broke free from a 9-9 tie to score 13 unanswered points over a span of seven minutes and 23 seconds.
As to what the Tigers did defensively to give themselves some separation, which played an ultra-important role as the Bobcats made an incredible fourth-quarter comeback, New Boston coach Adam Cox explained the Tigers’ adjustment.
Grandview Heights had 10 fewer rebounds and shot just 17-of-54 from the field for 31-and-a-half percent —including only 4-of-18 (22-percent) from three-point land.
For the first half, the Bobcats shot just 7-of-22, and 1-of-8 from long distance.
“I felt like we controlled the clock, controlled the tempo, and we were able to make some baskets and get back and really work hard and stay in that 1-3-1 and trap on that first pass. We really worked hard in the post too,” said Cox. “We stayed home on the big guys in the post after the first quarter. The wings covered the corners, the post stayed home and we were able to take away that easy dump-down they were doing. We made that adjustment and the kids really bought in again to the defensive gameplan and executed it well.”
Good thing they did, because the Tigers only scored four fourth-period points, and — in part with point man Grady Jackson being limited because of a separated shoulder — committed 22 total turnovers.
New Boston will definitely need to be better in ALL areas at ALL times on Friday night —when it faces Hiland for the Division IV Region 15 championship at 7 p.m.
The Tigers try to be the first Scioto County club to win a regional championship since Portsmouth captured back-to-back crowns in 2011 and 2012.
As for Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Southeastern, the Pirates would be —and probably should be —playing for a Division III regional title.
Unfortunately, their 47-38 lead with four minutes and 25 seconds remaining didn’t hold up, as Worthington Christian —the state’s top-ranked Division III team per the Associated Press poll — capped off a dozen unanswered points to end the game with a pair of three-point goals.
Those dramatic trifectas came courtesy of reserve senior Drew Faieta, who only attempted three three-point shots —but splashed the game-tying (47-47) three off the wing with a minute-and-a-half to go, and finally from the corner the game-winner with only 1.8 seconds left.
But after Kenny Sanderlin sunk a three-pointer for Wheelersburg, which made it 47-38, the Pirates never scored again.
Of their five fourth-quarter turnovers, three were in that final 4:19 stretch.
“We told them that there’s still a lot of game to be played. We got sped up a little bit, caught in some bad spots. I feel for them (Pirates) because the ball didn’t drop in the net there at the end, and it did for them (Warriors),” said Wheelersburg coach Steven Ater.
Defensively, the Pirates played zone at the end — and Faieta busted it.
“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 two tough shots,” added Ater.
The Pirates finished the season at a stellar 22-2, while Worthington Christian comes back on Saturday night —and faces Fairland for the Region 11 championship.
The Dragons defeated Fort Frye 68-45 in Wednesday’s other semifinal at Southeastern.
‘Burg bugaboo-ed by FTs
Just two days ago in this very same space, the Pirates drew praise for meshing their fourth-quarter free throws.
With Wednesday’s result, though, it’s a topic revisited.
Against Worthington Christian, Wheelersburg only attempted eight freebies from three separate players —but made just two, including a first-quarter toss by J.J. Truitt and a third-quarter swish by Sanderlin.
For the Warriors, D.J. Moore made 4-of-6, Tyler Kindberg 5-of-7, and Sam Johnson 1-of-2.
Ater and the Pirates will tell you they had to make those free throws, or else what went down Wednesday will likely be the outcome.
Gotta make those foul shots —no matter when, no matter where, and no matter by whom and/or against whom.
I’ll share a free-throw shooting story sometime, for I consider that my all-time athletic claim to fame —when I was a 13-year-old boy.
However, that’s indeed another story for another day.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved