CHILLICOTHE — Despite having lost to them earlier in the season, the Washington Blue Lions had to have been feeling confident coming into Saturday’s Sectional championship game against the Circleville Tigers at Southeastern High School.
Unfortunately for the Blue Lions, Circleville got off to just a good enough start and then had a good enough fourth quarter to post a 48-36 victory, thus ending a fine season for Washington, closing out the 2013-14 campaign with a record of 17-5.
The Blue Lions were hoping to advance to their first District tournament since 2010 at the always-exciting Convocation Center in Athens.
The Tigers had similar notions, looking to head to Ohio University for the second time in the last three years.
Circleville started well Saturday, with three different players hitting a total of four three-point field goals.
The Blue Lions, who relied heavily on the three-point shot, hit two of their eventual nine threes in the first quarter.
The Tigers held an 18-11 lead at the end of the first period.
Washington played right with Circleville in the second and third periods.
Senior Garret Phipps hit a pair of threes in the second period and sophomore Max Knisley hit a three-point shot for Washington’s nine points.
The Tigers had four players score a total of nine points in the second to take a 27-20 halftime lead.
Washington trailed early in the second half by nine points, but treys from the senior Conner Eckles and another from Phipps on either side of a bucket by the Tigers, brought the Blue Lions to within five points (31-26) midway through the third period.
With baskets from senior Tyler Slone and Eckles, Washington had managed to cut the Tigers’ lead to four points (35-31) with mere seconds remaining in the third period.
However, the Tigers ended the third just as they did in the first period, by scoring at the buzzer just after a score by the Blue Lions, continually answering, continually blunting any potential Blue Lion momentum.
Circleville continue to negate Washington’s quickness with quickness of their own, stepping into the passing lanes for several steals.
Washington tried at times to get the ball inside, but Tigers were able to swat away four or five Blue Lion shots down low on the night.
Junior Alec Wayne scored a conventional basket and a three-point shot on back-to-back possessions for Washington with just under three minutes remaining in the game. Those were Washington’s only points of the final period.
After going 0 of 1 from the free throw line in the first three quarters of the game, the Tigers made 7 of 12 from the line in the fourth quarter.
Washington was 0 of 1 from the line in the fourth quarter and just 1 of 5 from the charity stripe for the game.
Another key factor was in the turnover department.
Washington had 16 turnovers to Circleville’s eight. Several of Washington’s turnovers led to easy transition buckets for the Tigers.
Though rebounding statistics were not available, too many times Saturday Washington would miss a shot and the Tigers would come away with the rebound, limiting the Blue Lions to precious few second chance opportunities.
Senior Conner Eckles led the Blue Lions with 12 points.
Senior Garret Phipps had nine points, junior Alec Wayne had five, senior Tyler Slone scored four, senior Gavin Wissinger had three and sophomore Max Knisley had three.
Circleville’s Reed Hugus led the game with 13 points, while teammate Justin Hill had 12 and David Burroughs chipped in eight points.
A clearly emotional Blue Lion head coach, Shannon Bartruff, spoke with the media after emerging from the locker room.
“That was definitely the hardest conversation I’ve ever had with a group of kids after a game,” Bartruff said. “Just because of everything they’ve given our program.
“They’re great kids,” Bartruff said. “They’re great teammates; they love each other to death. They fight like heck for one another.”
Washington says thank you and farewell to seven seniors: Garret Phipps, Christian Johnson, Conner Eckles, Gavin Wissinger, Sam Runnels, Tyler Slone and Josh Williams.
“These seniors leave behind an undefeated season at home, a 17-5 record and a league championship,” Bartruff said. “They also are leaving behind a legacy of tradition and flat-out hard work and great attitudes, which is everything our program is built around.
“It hurts like heck right now,” Bartruff said. “In a couple of weeks, we’ll have our banquet. We’ll look back on this season and there’ll be a lot to be proud of. I’m definitely proud of our guys.
“All the credit goes to Circleville,” Bartruff said. “They just made more plays. Every time we fought and clawed back in it, the Burroughs kid, they would isolate him and he made a couple of nice jumpers in the paint.
“We took a lot of threes tonight,” Bartruff said. “We normally shoot a lot of threes, but we normally shoot them a little better than what we did tonight.” Washington was 9 of 24 from three-point range for 38 percent.
“It comes down to tough, gritty defense,” Bartruff said. “They made stops when they needed to and we didn’t.
“They’re a hard match for us,” Bartruff said. “They’re more athletic than we are in a couple of spots; they’re bigger than we are, which, we’ve had that all season. They just have guys that you can’t leave on the perimeter, because if you do, they’re going to make you pay.
“They had a good team effort tonight on offense,” Bartruff said. “We’re averaging 57 points a game and they held us to 36 tonight. They blocked some shots, they took some charges early in the game. That starts to make you a little tentative.
“We were kind of standing around in the second half,” Bartruff said. “Instead of cutting and moving the basketball. When we stand and watch, we don’t have anybody we can just dump the ball down into and make plays. We have got to move and we’ve got to move the basketball and we didn’t do that enough in the second half.”
In closing, Bartruff had numerous thank-yous for the 2013-14 season.
“Our fans and our parents have been absolutely unbelievable all season,” Bartruff said. “We have four or five moms that decorated our bus; they provided team meals; they’ve decorated our locker room. We’ve had great support from other coaches (including Mark Bihl and Corey Dye). I’m blessed to have two loving parents that have been to every game. They’ve made me what I am today and I am thankful for that.
“My coaching staff was great this year,” Bartruff said. “They took a lot of the pressure off me. In a small community like ours, it takes a community effort. I can’t thank everybody enough.”
“We had two goals a few weeks ago,” Circleville head coach Joe Goodyear said. “We wanted to get to 15 wins and we wanted to play at the Convo. That gives us another week of practice.
“Our team is a unique blend,” Goodyear said. “We’ve got some shooters; we’ve got some athletes; we’ve got some strength; we’ve got a little bit of size. We just have a good blend of a little bit of everything.
“When you beat Miami Trace and Washington Court House, this was a well-earned Sectional title,” Goodyear said.
The Tigers take on Warren Friday night at 6:15 p.m. in the District semifinals at the Convocation Center in Athens. That game will be followed by Logan Elm taking on Minford at 8 p.m.
The District championship is Saturday, March 8 at 7 p.m. at the Convo.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 11 9 11 5 — 36
C 18 9 10 11 — 48
WASHINGTON — Max Knisley 0 (1)-0-3; Alec Wayne 1 (1)-0-5; Garret Phipps 0 (3)-0-9; Christian Johnson 0-0-0; Conner Eckles 1 (3)-1-12; Gavin Wissinger 0 (1)-0-3; Sam Runnels 0-0-0; Logan Wilson 0-0-0; Tyler Slone 2-0-4; Skyler Hawk 0-0-0; C.J. Taylor 0-0-0. TOTALS — 4 (9)-1-36. Free throw shooting: 1 of 5 for 20 percent. Three-point field goals: Phipps, 3; Eckles, 3; Knisley, Wayne, Wissinger. Combined field goal shooting: 13 of 41 for 32 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 9 of 24 for 38 percent. Turnovers: 16.
CIRCLEVILLE — Calbert Cooper 0-0-0; Michael Camp 0 (2)-0-6; David Burroughs 3-2-8; Ryan Moats 0-0-0; Will Giffin 1-0-2; Mitchell Castillo 0-0-0; Reed Hugus 3 (1)-4-13; Kyle Smith 1 (1)-0-5; Justin Hill 4 (1)-1-12; Evan Wadlington 0-0-0; Tanner Styers 1-0-2; Rusty Shull 0-0-0. TOTALS — 13 (5)-7-48. Free throw shooting: 7 of 13 for 54 percent. Three-point field goals: Camp, 2; Hugus, Smith, Hill. Combined field goal shooting: 18 of 41 for 44 percent. Three-point field goal shooting: 5 of 11 for 45 percent. Turnovers: 8.
Statistics courtesy Steve Vermillion, WCHO Radio