AMANDA — A cold early February rain outside of Amanda-Clearcreek High School on Tuesday evening didn’t feel as cold as the shooting inside for the home team during the second half.
The Aces connected on just 6 of 24 shots (25 percent) during the final two quarters of play and suffered a tough 40-38 Mid-State League Buckeye Division loss to Fairfield Union.
“We controlled the glass and we generated a number of pretty good looks, but we couldn’t knock anything down in the second half,” A-C coach Cody Carpenter said.
Will Riffle had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Aces, followed by Alex Smith scoring eight points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Jesse Connell contributed eight points, and Jayse Miller dished out six assists and had five rebounds to go with seven points.
The night started off well for the Aces, who drained seven of their first nine (77.8 percent) shots, to build a 17-7 lead with 90 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
“We came out and did exactly what we wanted to by building a nice lead,” Carpenter said. “We moved the basketball well on offense, we were patient and that led to good looks at the basket that our guys knocked down.
“We also did a nice job of defending on the other end and limiting Fairfield Union to one shot.”
Riffle led the way with six points on 3 of 4 (75 percent) shooting for the Aces, who also received a three-pointer apiece from Andrew Hunter, Miller and Connell.
Fairfield Union senior point guard Evan Conley answered with back-to-back three-pointers to shave the A-C lead to just 17-13 going into the second quarter.
“I felt we had a couple of lulls in our defense, at the end of the first quarter and again at the end of the second quarter, and that cost us,” Carpenter said. “You can’t have a lull against a player like Conley or he’s going to make you pay.
“A 10-point lead there goes down to four, and that makes it a different game.”
The Aces extended their lead to six points on three separate occasions in the second quarter, on a three-pointer from Connell and baskets from Riffle and Smith, but Conley scored six more points during the period, including a layup with 35 seconds remaining until halftime to cut the Aces’ lead to 25-23.
Despite pulling down 10 of their 13 offensive rebounds in the third quarter, the Aces were only able to add a point to their lead, due to shooting 4 of 15 (26.7 percent) from the field.
The Falcons tied the game at 34-34, following a three-pointer by Conley on their first possession of the fourth quarter, then took their first lead since 3-2 when Huston Harrah drained a pair of free throws to make it 36-34 with 7:11 remaining.
Alex Smith tied the game on a jumper, but the Falcons came back to take the lead for good with a jumper by Harrah with 4:15 remaining.
After three straight misses apiece by the two Fairfield County rivals, the Falcons drained a minute off the clock before stretching their lead to 40-26 on a layup from Andrew Moll with 36 seconds left.
Smith scored what turned out to be the final points of the night for the Aces with a layup with 21 seconds remaining.
The Aces appeared to catch a pair of breaks when Conley missed the front end of a pair of one-and-one’s with 15.9 and 5.9 seconds left, but a pair of shots by the Aces were unable to find the mark.
“Alex Smith turned out to be the only player to score for us in the fourth quarter,” Carpenter said. “We rushed a few shots here and there in the second half, but we also had a number of good looks that, again, we just couldn’t knock down.
“It felt like there was a lid on the rim.”
Conley led the Falcons with a game-high 18 points, with Moll and Chase Poston adding seven apiece.
“We held Conley to just three points in the second half, and Jesse Connell did a nice job of guarding him,” Carpenter said. “Jesse’s 6-foot-4, but with his reach, it’s more like 6-8, and that’s tough for a guard to shoot over.”
The Falcons, who remain in a second-place tie with Logan Elm (10-8, 7-4) and Hamilton Township (10-8, 7-4), a game behind league-leading Teays Valley (10-7, 8-3) in the league, shot 16 of 42 (38.1 percent) from the field, compared to the Aces going 16 of 44 (36.4 percent).
Each team also made two free throws, with the ultimate difference being the Falcons hitting six three-pointers and the Aces knocking down four.
Amanda-Clearcreek held a 32-18 rebounding edge, but had 11 turnovers to four for Fairfield Union.
Both teams continue league play on Thursday, as the Aces (12-6, 5-6) travel to Hamilton Township and the Falcons host Teays Valley.