It was a classic SCOL match-up Friday night in front of a large crowd at the Panther Pit as Miami Trace welcomed the McClain Tigers from Greenfield.
After a closely-contested first half, the Panthers pulled away in the third quarter and went on to post a 73-55 win over the Tigers.
With the win, Miami Trace improves to 7-2 in the SCOL and 13-3 overall. The Panthers remain in second place in the SCOL standings, two games (in the loss column) behind the idle Washington Blue Lions.
McClain dips to 4-4 in the league, 7-8 overall with a game tonight at Clinton-Massie.
Miami Trace will be stepping out of league play to visit Huntington tonight.
Junior Cedric Pettiford was the game’s leading scorer for Miami Trace, pouring in 21 points.
Senior Trevor Smith had 14 and freshman Tyrae Pettiford scored 10.
Freshman Blake Pittser came off the bench and hit three three-point shots for nine points.
The Tigers were paced by junior Ryan Faulconer with 12 points.
Senior Thomas Schrader was next for McClain with eight points.
The two teams have opposing offensive philosophies.
Miami Trace is usually looking to get the ball out and up and down the court in transition.
McClain is more likely to sit back in the half court offense, move the ball around and look for an open cutter to the basket.
The Panthers built a 9-4 lead mid-way through the first quarter, only to finish the initial frame deadlocked with the Tigers, 18-18.
Schrader paced the Tigers with six points in the first period, while Cedric Pettiford had seven for the Panthers.
McClain led at one point in the first quarter, 15-11.
In the second period, it was no more than a two-possession lead for either side.
The Tigers held a 32-30 halftime lead.
Faulconer was big in the second for the Tigers with eight points.
Pittser countered with six points for the Panthers.
The game continued to be too close to call well into the third period.
McClain led, 41-40 with two minutes to play in the third.
It was at this stage that the momentum swung, irrevocably as it turned out, in the Panthers’ favor.
Miami Trace closed out the quarter with an 11-0 run to lead after three, 51-41.
Cedric Pettiford scored 10 of his 21 points in the third quarter.
The Tigers scored nine points in the third.
In the fourth quarter, Smith did most of the damage for the Panthers, scoring all 14 of his points with four field goals and going 6 of 6 from the foul line.
McClain scored 14 points in the fourth.
The Panthers’ biggest lead of the game was 24 points (71-47) following an old-fashioned three-point play by Smith with 2:29 remaining in the game.
Miami Trace head coach Rob Pittser explained the turnaround for his team.
“We finally got back to playing the way that we thought the make-up of this group needed to play all year,” Pittser said. “We want to make this last third of the season about making a big push to play transition basketball.
“We felt if we could get the game in the 60’s, McClain was going to have trouble playing at that pace,” Pittser said. “Even though it was tied, 18-18 at the end of the first quarter, we felt good. That was a pace of 70 apiece.
“When it was 32-30 at the half, we still looking at the 60’s,” Pittser said. “That’s kind of how our team needs to play.”
“Trace played really well tonight,” McClain head coach Joe Wisecup said. “I was a little upset with our kids not competing in parts of the game. For the most part, our kids competed.
“We just had trouble with their athleticism on the boards,” Wisecup said. “They shot the ball well. They attacked our zone better. Trace played very well tonight. I wasn’t that upset with the way our kids played, for the most part.
“We didn’t hold our own on the boards,” Wisecup said. “There were a few times when we got stops, defensively, then let them get second and third shot opportunities.”
In the j-v game Friday, McClain beat Miami Trace, 51-36.
The Panthers (5-10 overall, 3-5 SCOL) were led by Josh Golden with 13 points.
Randall Mischal was the game’s leading scorer for McClain with 17 points.
Alex Hollar was in double digits with 12.
In the freshman game, the Tigers topped the Panthers, 35-25.
Owen O’Connor led McClain with 15 points.
Jacob Batson led the Panthers (4-9, 2-6) with 10 points.