WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE — Miami Trace survived a barrage of 14 three-pointers from visiting Circleville on Friday to claim a 56-53 non-league win.
The pair of former South Central Ohio League rivals had three players score in double figures.
The game’s leading scorer was Circleville junior Riley Gibson, who connected for six threes on the way to 25 points. Junior Evan Justice and sophomore Craig Fleck each hit four threes for the Tigers for 12 points each.
“There are times when we’re going to have to live and die by the three,” Circleville coach Cody Carpenter said. “We were 14 of 27 from the three and we still lost by three, so, that’s tough.
“They are so big. They have three guys over 6-5 and our tallest guy is 6-2. They protected the paint really well. They made it hard for us to get in there. We looked to attack and kick, move the ball around. We had a lot of open perimeter shots. They gave them to us, so we had to take them. Fortunately for us, they were going down.”
Junior Logan Rodgers led the Panthers with 15 points. He had a double-double with 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. Senior Kyler Conn scored 13 for the Panthers and senior Trevor Barker had 12 points.
While the Tigers had an advantage with the bonus ball, the Panthers’ came in rebounding with a 33-22 advantage, including a 14-5 margin on the offensive glass.
“We couldn’t stop their big boys inside,” Carpenter said. “We gave up too many offensive rebounds. Our guys played extremely tough in the paint, but, we were just out-manned. There were times when we would put a body on them and they just found a way to get the rebound. We couldn’t box them out, they were too big.”
Junior Dylan Bernard also had 10 rebounds for Miami Trace, with six of them on the offensive end.
The Panthers’ rebounding advantage led to them outscoring Circleville, 16-4 in second-chance points.
“They’ll be a very solid team,” Miami Trace coach Rob Pittser said of the Tigers. “They are well-coached and they have a kid that can really fill it up, a couple of kids, actually.
“(Riley Gibson) had 26 against us last year and 25 tonight, so, we’re still trying to figure out how to guard him. The difference tonight being, we were playing with a lead most of the night. We were able to make some plays to stay on top on the scoreboard. That was a big difference.”
Circleville held a 17-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Panthers won the second quarter by six points, 15-9 and led 29-26 at the half.
Miami Trace won the third quarter, 14-11 while the Tigers outscored the Panthers by three points in the fourth quarter, 16-13 to keep the final victory margin of three points for the home team.
“We played in front virtually the entire game,” Pittser said. “But, the problem is, they shot the three so well, (making 14 of 28 for 50 percent) we never really built a substantial lead. It seemed like every time we got it up to a multi-possession lead, they would hit a three. They had five threes in the first quarter, seven in the first half. Twenty-one of their 26 points in the first half were from catch and shoot three-pointers.”
“Our focus in the second half was really to crowd those kids,” Pittser added. “That gave them some driving lanes, but they still continued to make some three-point shots.
Justice led the Tigers with five rebounds and Fleck and senior Logan Crabtree each had four rebounds.
Miami Trace (1-0) is back in action today at Vinton County, while the Tigers (0-1) return home to host Washington Court House (0-1) on Tuesday.