Third time is ‘Burg’s charm: Pirates knock off top seed Falcons in district semis


Pirates knock off top seed Falcons in district semis

By Jacob Smith - [email protected]



Wheelersburg senior Eli Swords (20) attempts a mid-range jumper during the Pirates’ win over Minford in a D-III district semifinal.

Wheelersburg senior Eli Swords (20) attempts a mid-range jumper during the Pirates’ win over Minford in a D-III district semifinal.


Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Wheelersburg senior Josh Clark (12) leaps to make an outlet pass during the second half of the Pirates’ win over Minford in the D-III district semis at Waverly.


Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

The Wheelersburg High School cheer block and cheerleaders storm the court with the Pirates boys basketball team following their upset win over Minford in a D-III district semifinal.


Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

WAVERLY — During their week of preparation, and their one hour and 16-minute district semifinal versus Minford on Saturday, the Wheelersburg Pirates took the phrase, “every team is 0-0 during the postseason” — and put it in action.

In the first of four Division III district semis to be played at the Waverly Downtown Arena, the No. 8 seed Pirates knocked off the top-seed Falcons, 35-29.

After winning the program’s fifth straight sectional title eight days prior, the Pirates became focused on their next opponent — and how they’d need to play to reach their fourth district final during this five-year stretch.

“What our guys need to be commended for is the week of prep coming into this game. We told them we’ve been through a lot of battles throughout the years in the district tournament. Getting here is not easy, but when you are here you have to know how to prepare for it,” Wheelersburg coach Steven Ater said, afterwards. “Thought our guys one through fifteen did what they needed to do for us to have a winning game. We don’t get here if we don’t get the great looks that we do in practice and being mentally prepared.”

Minford started the game strong, taking a 9-3 lead with five minutes left in the first quarter.

However, over the final 33 minutes of the game, the Pirates outscored the Falcons 32-20.

Junior Jackson Schwamburger knocked down Wheelersburg’s only three of the game to give ‘Burg a 3-0 lead — before Minford made its run to take its largest lead at 9-3.

The Pirates focused on getting shots inside the three-point line for the rest of the game, scoring 14 two-point field goals and going 6-0f-9 from the free-throw line in the win.

Senior Eli Swords converted a field goal plus the free throw after a foul was called to put ‘Burg ahead 18-15 at halftime.

Swords scored a team-high 12 points (four field goals and 4-of-5 FTs) in the win.

Josh Clark scored eight points with a field goal in each quarter, Nolan Wright had six points, Schwamburger five with a pair of FTs in the fourth quarter, and senior Cooper McKenzie scored four points for the Pirates.

“We told them it was going to be a toughness thing, be ready for a physical game where we have to battle. They’re (Minford) very talented, have a lot of length, and they’ve got a lot of scoring,” Ater said. “Told them to combat that we have to be the toughest team out there and I definitely think we did that tonight.”

Minford finishes their season 19-5 following the loss.

And as a result, the last win for Minford beyond the sectional stage remains during the 1994-95 postseason.

Senior Trenton Zimmerman led Minford with a team-high 12 points, Myles Montgomery scored nine (three made 3s), and four Falcons each scored two points apiece.

Falcons coach Josh Shoemaker said his team’s struggles were a result of turnovers and missed shots after their strong start.

“Too many turnovers and missed layups. Didn’t make a shot and in the second half we start to make a run, think we had five straight turnovers and couldn’t recover,” Shoemaker said. “Credit to Wheelersburg for moving on, they really did a good job guarding us.”

Despite falling in both regular-season meetings, the Pirates managed to best the Falcons the third time around.

Ater credited his team with improving over the course of the season — and playing their best, most efficient game with their season on the line.

“We’re a better team now than when we played them the first two times. We’ve grown and learned and it’s been a process. And us as coaches, learning not what we want to do but what we have to do to be successful,” Ater said. “Certainly not playing the way we did last year, and that’s a credit to our kids to be able to turn the page.”

Minford will graduate three seniors this spring in Zimmerman, Ethan Connally and Devin Parker.

“It’s such a tough loss to see the seniors go out like this. Trenton, Devin, Ethan have been the centerpiece of the program this year. Going to be hard to replace their leadership and a lot of our success started with them,” Shoemaker said. “Hate to go out like this, but it’s been a joy to coach these kids.”

The Falcons will return three starters heading into next year in Montgomery, Adam Crank and Joe Hannah.

“They just need to remember this feeling, use it as motivation,” Shoemaker said. “We just weren’t very good today.”

Wheelersburg (14-11) advances to Friday’s Division III Southeast 1 District championship — where it’ll face No. 5 seed Chesapeake, which earned a 64-54 win over Zane Trace in its own district semifinal.

It’ll be the first meeting between the two programs since the ‘19-20 postseason — when the Panthers earned a 54-51 win over the Pirates in the D-III district semifinals at the Convocation Center in Athens.

Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. back at the Waverly Downtown Arena — to determine who will represent the Southeast District 1 in next week’s D-III regional tournament.

“Now, you set out to win a district final, we’ve got one line of the bracket filled. Really excited to have another week to work with these guys,” Ater said. “They’re fun to work with, coachable, and it’s a group who always strives to be better.”

***

BOX SCORE

Wheelersburg 7 11 11 6 — 35

Minford 9 6 5 9 — 29

Wheelersburg 35 (14-11)

Braxton Rase 0 0-0 0, Connor Estep 0 0-1 0, Josh Clark 4 0-0 8, Nolan Wright 3 0-0 6, Eli Swords 4 4-5 12, Jackson Schwamburger 1 2-3 5, Tyler Sommer 0 0-0 0, Luke Swords 0 0-0 0, Cooper McKenzie 2 0-0 4; TOTALS: 14 6-9 35; Three-point totals: 1 (Schwamburger 1)

Minford 29 (19-5)

Trenton Zimmerman 4 2-3 12, Joe Hannah 1 0-0 2, Adam Crank 1 0-0 2, Myles Montgomery 3 0-0 9, Devin Parker 1 0-0 2, Ethan Connally 1 0-0 2; TOTALS: 11 2-3 29; Three-point field goals: 5 (Montgomery 3, Zimmerman 2)

Wheelersburg senior Eli Swords (20) attempts a mid-range jumper during the Pirates’ win over Minford in a D-III district semifinal.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/02/web1_Eli-Swords-1.jpgWheelersburg senior Eli Swords (20) attempts a mid-range jumper during the Pirates’ win over Minford in a D-III district semifinal. Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

Wheelersburg senior Josh Clark (12) leaps to make an outlet pass during the second half of the Pirates’ win over Minford in the D-III district semis at Waverly.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/02/web1_Josh-Clark-_-Burg-1.jpgWheelersburg senior Josh Clark (12) leaps to make an outlet pass during the second half of the Pirates’ win over Minford in the D-III district semis at Waverly. Courtesy of Tim Gearhart

The Wheelersburg High School cheer block and cheerleaders storm the court with the Pirates boys basketball team following their upset win over Minford in a D-III district semifinal.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/02/web1_Burg-Minford-court-storm-1.jpgThe Wheelersburg High School cheer block and cheerleaders storm the court with the Pirates boys basketball team following their upset win over Minford in a D-III district semifinal. Courtesy of Tim Gearhart
Pirates knock off top seed Falcons in district semis

By Jacob Smith

[email protected]

Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved