Tournament time is all about surviving and advancing through the bracket, and that is exactly what
Piketon did Sunday night in Athens. It was an up-and-down night for the Redstreaks, but the veteran
Piketon squad found a way to get control down the stretch as they held off Alexander 59-54 to advance
to next weekâ€™s district championship.
In the early going, Piketonâ€™s blueprint for success was playing out nicely. The defensive pressure of
the Redstreaks caused 11 first quarter turnovers as Piketon scored the quarterâ€™s final nine points to
take a 15-6 advantage after one period of play. Towards the end of this run, Piketon faced serious
adversity as they lost Evan Legg to an apparent head injury of some kind. The Redstreaks responded at
first due to some great bench production from Zach Farmer and Jacob Braniff as Piketon was able to
open up its biggest lead of the game at 21-10.
Unfortunately, the adversity continued to mount for Piketon. Now, it was senior guard Jared Vulgamore
who was forced to leave with a cut to his head, and Alexander started to take over the second quarter.
The Spartans scored 14 straight points to take a 24-21 lead. The Alexander run would eventually reach
18-3 as the Spartans led 28-24, but a Keenan Brush put-back basket cut Alexanderâ€™s lead to 28-26
heading to halftime.
The first half was a great example of what both teams wanted the game to look like. In the first quarter,
the game was fast. Piketon dominated the turnover battle which led to nine more shot attempts for the
Redstreaks compared to Alexander. In the second quarter, Alexander was able to mix their half court
pressure with their solid scrimmage area defense. With the game more in the half court, TVC Player of
the Year Jack Hart was able to block â€“ or at least change â€“ several shots on one end while he and
teammate Michael Chapman were able to combine to get the Alexander offense rolling on the other end.
Early in the third quarter, it was more of the same for Alexander. Alexanderâ€™s solid duo of Hart and
Chapman each scored early second half buckets, and all of a sudden, Piketon was facing its biggest
deficit of the game at 34-27. Fortunately for Piketon, Legg was able to return to the game, and it did not
take the SVC Player of the Year long to impact the game. Legg scored nine points in the third quarter to
spark a 15-4 run as Piketon quickly turned a seven point deficit into a 42-38 lead entering the fourth
The final quarter treated fans to a tight finish. I thought the thing that stood out in the last eight minutes was
the play of the Piketon seniors. Braniff made big shots down the stretch. Jamie Helton provided one
bucket and some great defense. Vulgamore, who returned with Legg in the third quarter, scored a late
basket to push Piketonâ€™s lead back to two possessions when Alexander had cut it to three.
Perhaps the biggest play came with a few minutes remaining, and again, it had two seniors involved.
Alexander had a good look at a triple that would have cut Piketonâ€™s lead to two. The shot rimmed
out as Brush rebounded, hit Legg with a nice baseball pass, and Legg converted on the other end. The
final winning play came from Brush as well. Alexander had trimmed the lead to 55-52. Piketon failed to
convert at the free throw line, but Brush was able to keep the ball alive allowing Piketon to return to the
line where they finally put the game away.
The win was definitely not Piketonâ€™s best performance, but this time of year is all about winning. A lot
of credit has to go to Alexander. Hart and Chapman were as advertised. Chapman scored 15 points and
was just relentless in his drives to the basket. Hart finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and seven blocks.
To Piketonâ€™s credit, they found a way to get it done. Legg led Piketon with 20 points, 16 of which
came after halftime. Braniff added 12 points while Vulgamore scored eight points. I also thought Farmerâ
€™s first half play was crucial. He finished with six points and six rebounds. Finally, Brush finished with
eight rebounds and five blocks.
Piketon, now 20-2, will return to the Convo in Athens next Saturday night. The Redstreaks will meet
Chesapeake for the district championship. The tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. The Piketon/Chesapeake game
will be one of three, D-III title games on the day. Before Piketon in the 5 p.m. start is Wheelersburg and
Ironton, and after Piketon in the 9 p.m. start is Fairland and Portsmouth.
|DIVISION III DISTRICT SEMIFINAL * By Shayne Combs, firstname.lastname@example.org