Friday nightâ€™s match-up between Huntington and Unioto was an intriguing match-up because of the contrasting styles of these two teams. Unioto is one of the deeper teams in the league. The Shermans are trying to utilize some pressure defense and a well-balanced offensive attack to play a little faster than in years past, while Huntington is a team who always seems to win the battle of tempo with their patient offense and their match-up zone. As Fridayâ€™s battle played out, Uniotoâ€™s style won out early with Huntingtonâ€™s style allowing them to hang around and make a late run; however, in the end, it was Unioto holding on to win 49-46 to remain undefeated on the year.
In the first half, Unioto was able to knock down a few three-pointers and use great on-ball pressure to limit Huntingtonâ€™s post feeds as Unioto opened up a 26-16 halftime lead. A huge problem for Huntington came at the free throw line. The Huntsmen entered the bonus with 3:52 remaining in the first half, but the green and white made only one of eight free throws as they finished the half down 10.
In the first few minutes of the second half, Unioto looked as if they were ready to put the game away. The first two possessions resulted in Huntington turnovers with Cole Murray (Murray scored a team-high 12 points) and Christian Dunkle getting easy scores on the other end, and the third possession saw a Brick Davis defensive board and outlet result in a Cody Strange lay-up to put Unioto up 32- 16. The lead briefly reached 17 at 37-20 and was still 14 at the end of the third period as Unioto led 39-25.
Even at 14 entering the final period, I started to get the same feeling I had watching the Unioto/Westfall triple-OT game last week (when Unioto blew a 10-point advantage going into the final quarter). Unioto had started to take their foot off the pedal, and Huntington was starting to get more comfortable offensively. Huntington was able to get it under 10 on a Blake Campbell old-fashion three, and from that point, Dylan Gragg started to take the game over. Down six at 45-39, Gragg went on an individual run where he scored seven of the gameâ€™s final 10 points, but it wasnâ€™t enough as Huntington was unable to get a shot up in its final possession.
Gragg finished with a game-high 22 points â€“ 16 in the second half. After a quiet first three quarters, Gragg started getting more involved late. Huntington was able to get the ball inside as Gragg made some great catches and was able to finish in traffic. Brice Vickers â€“ just a sophomore â€“ scored 13 points as he continues to grow into a solid scoring guard for the Huntsmen.
Uniotoâ€™s free throw shooting didnâ€™t help its cause any in the second half. On the night, the Shermans were 11- of-31 from the charity stripe. In fact when free throws were being shot Friday night, you were probably best off to just hide the eyes of any youngsters watching as the two teams combined for a dreadful 17-of-50 from the foul line.
I have mixed feelings about this game. As for Unioto, you have to be happy at 5-0, but you have to be concerned with the inability to put teams away â€“ especially on your home floor. Friday is the third league home game where Unioto found itself up double-figures only to see its opponent make a serious run to make the game interesting. Back to the positive side, this is a group of Unioto kids who did not win a lot over the past two years, and they are finding ways to win a variety of games.
On the Huntington side, I continue to be amazed how these kids win the battle of tempo. The Huntsmen are able to compete every night, because even when they play poorly, they defend well enough to hang around until the offense can get going. Other than the Piketon loss, Huntington has played several games in the 40â€™s, and when they get that second or third guy in double-figures they seem to have a chance to win.
The difference in this game was Uniotoâ€™s depth. With Chase Detillion back, Unioto can now play nine or 10 guys. This caused some fatigue in the Huntington backcourt and caused some serious foul trouble that made some situations tough on Huntington down the stretch.