ATHENS, Ohio — The Pirates tournament run ended Sunday at the Convocation Center.
Wheelersburg (16-7) who entered the tournament as a three seed lost to No. 2 Lynchburg Clay 64-48 in a Division III District Semifinal match.
Pirates head coach Steven Ater wasn’t satisfied with just reaching the district tournament. Under Ater’s three-year tenure, Wheelersburg has played at the Convo Center in each season.
“It’s disappointing. You want to get here but then you want to stay here, you want to keep playing here,” Ater said. “We didn’t accomplish that goal. But this has been a really good season. We’ve seen a lot of growth out of our team both on the court and off the court.”
The Pirates were led by Tanner Bivens and freshman Tanner Holden. Bivens scored a team-high 13 points while Holden added 12 to go along with his 11 rebounds.
Senior Kyle Davis hit the only trey on the night for Wheelersburg while Austin Lotspeich recorded five blocks in the game.
“I thought Tanner Bivens was really good. Bivens and Tanner Holden both stepped up and rose to the challenge,” Ater said. “Some other guys played their butts off and shots didn’t fall. Kyle knocked down a three and he’s a very good shooter, but other shots didn’t fall for him.
“They battled their butts off. I thought Austin had a good first half. We had some good performances but collectively we just never could get going at the same time.”
Offensively, the Pirates were never able to find a rhythm, shooting 33 percent for the game. Despite the struggles, Wheelersburg only trailed by a point at the intermission but a 29 percent offensive performance in the second half while also the Mustangs to knock down 48 percent of their second-half attempts doomed the Pirates.
“In the first half, I don’t think we played very well and we were only down a point,” Ater said. “They made some shots and we definitely didn’t make shots. I thought in the second half they made a couple of baskets and our kids got sped up and took some quick shots. Then we had some breakdowns communication wise.”
Lynchburg Clay also took advantage of the hustle stats, outscoring Wheelersburg 17-9 on second-chance opportunities while scoring 16 points off turnovers.
“I felt like we didn’t come up with the 50-50 balls,” Ater said. “We didn’t get to the floor fast enough. Those things definitely showed up tonight. When it’s a 1-point game and those things aren’t going your way, third quarter they make some shots and we didn’t respond on our end.
“Give them credit. That’s a senior ladened team. We had some inexperience out there at the Convo.”
The Pirates only lose two seniors, which could bode well for Wheelersburg next season if the underclassman are prepared to work hard during the offseason program.
“They better because there’s a lot of good basketball teams in our area,” Ater said. “If you don’t put in that work in the offseason, you just get passed by and you don’t even get here next year. There’s going to be a lot of experienced teams in our area next season with either tournament experience or league experience, but we’ve got a lot of guys back, too. It’ll be about whether they are willing to put in the work in the offseason.”
The two seniors the Pirates will lose to graduation are Kyle Davis and Ben Marvin.
“Two guys, high character, hard worker guys who are going to be successful in life,” Ater said. “It’s just the type of kids they are. They put time in the program and it’s tough to say goodbye to seniors this time of the year. Sometimes the toughest thing, when the final buzzer sounds — the loss hurts —but losing good kids in the program hurts a little more.”
Wheelersburg — 10 16 11 11 — 64
Lynchburg Clay — 13 14 20 17 — 48
Wheelersburg — Holden 4-4-12, Davis 3-0-7, Bevins 6-1-13, Coleman 4-0-8, Lotspeich 3-2-8.
Lynchburg Clay —Blankenship 2-4-8, McLaughlin 6-0-13, Pierson 6-4-18, Giordano 8-1-20, Inman 1-0-2.
Three-point field goals — Wheelersburg 1 (Davis); Lynchburg Clay 6 (McLaughlin, Pierson 2, Giordano 3).
Records — Wheelersburg (16-7); Lynchburg Clay (22-2).
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.