The game between the Washington Blue Lions and the No. 2 in the State in Division II Unioto Shermans Saturday night was an old-fashioned barn-burner in every sense of the term (save the literal). This one will go down as an all-timer.
The gym was packed and Unioto fans were queued up outside before the doors even opened for the j-v game.
Washington gave a tremendous effort, but, in the end, Unioto was able to hit a basket at the buzzer to walk away with a 63-61 victory.
“I felt like our kids were prepared and they were ready to go,” Washington head coach Shannon Bartruff said. “I was confident. I really felt like our kids were going to be able to play with this team. It was going to be a great challenge. It was a great atmosphere.
“It’s a huge opportunity,” Bartruff said. “I told the kids all day today that 500 basketball teams don’t get to play in games like this because they don’t mean as much. You’ve got yourself to this point because you are a really good basketball team. You’ve earned the right to be in a big game against a great basketball team.
“Our kids were ready,” Bartruff said. “We didn’t back down.”
Unioto hurt the Blue Lions from the outside, as well as under the basket, Bartruff explained.
“With Unioto, you have to pick your poison,” Bartruff said. “They are probably one of the better three-point shooting teams around. You either take the three away and live with your guys trying to play man-up in the post, or you try to take the post away and give up the three.
“I felt they were a little more dangerous from the three-point line,” Bartruff said. “They did a good job of exploiting — I don’t want to say our size disadvantage — they’re a little thicker in the post.
“If we see these guys on down the road, we’re going to have to game-plan better and not give them so many easy looks,” Bartruff said. “They’re a great team. They’re well-coached and they play hard.
“We made too many mistakes,” Bartruff said. “We played really hard. I had us with 12 turnovers. I was proud that we were able to handle their pressure and really exploit it, at times. But, when you’re in a tight ball game with a really good team, every turnover is maximized. It’s just one more possession that we don’t have.”
“What a great atmosphere for high school basketball,” Unioto head coach Matt Hoops said when he addressed the media after the game. “Unfortunately, there had to be a loser. Washington Court House played their hearts out. Coach Bartruff does an outstanding job with those guys.
“We just made one more play than they did late in the game,” Hoops said.
“The seniors have to make big plays, especially on the road,” Hoops said. “Isaac (Wheeler) controlled the paint, I felt like, in the first half. Erique (Hosley) was out with some foul trouble.
“In the second half, you could tell Erique was hungry and ready to go,” Hoops said. “He dominated that third quarter (with 12 points) and then he had the (shot) to win it.”
Bartruff credited his team for staying focused when they got down by seven with 2:30 to play in the second quarter and down by seven again at the end of the third and down by eight with 5:29 to play in the game.
“A lot of teams that Unioto plays will fold and they’ll end up beating them by 20,” Bartruff said. “We fought right back in it. Cameron made those two huge free throws with 17 seconds left. It’s a lot of time when they’ve got good guards and good post players, to have to go down and get one more stop. I really thought we were going to overtime.”
Wheeler led the Shermans with 18 points, followed by Hosley with 14, Brandon Kennedy with 13 (including back-to-back back-breaking three-point shots to open up Unioto’s biggest lead of the game, 8 points, with 5:29 to play in the game).
Hosley also made a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter, falling out of bounds and throwing in what amounted to a prayer of a shot.
Logan Swackhammer scored 10 points, eight of those coming in the first half.
Washington was led by senior Max Knisley, the game’s leading scorer with 23 points. He scored 21 in the first half.
Senior Cameron Eckles scored 17 points, 15 of those coming in the second half.
Hoops spoke about how Unioto was keying on Knisley.
“No. 1 was circled on our board about 12 times,” Hoops said. “Knowing that he is their go-to guy. He is the straw that stirs the drink. Everything runs through him. He makes everyone so much better. He’s outstanding with the basketball in his hands. He makes them go.
“In the first half, I caught myself shaking my head a couple of times,” Hoops said. “He was amazing. Our guys accepted the challenge and stepped up in the second half to try and shut him down and make some of the others beat us. I thought there for a second Eckles was going to. He had an outstanding game, as well.
“This game tonight will go down as one of the best basketball games I’ve ever been a part of,” Hoops said.
Unioto is now 18-0 after a 75-49 win over Adena Monday night. It was the Shermans’ 53rd consecutive regular season victory.
The Blue Lions (14-3 overall) are at Logan Elm Tuesday and at Miami Trace Friday. Both nights play begins with the j-v game at 6 p.m.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 15 17 14 15 — 61
U 15 18 20 10 — 63
WASHINGTON — Max Knisley 7 (2)-3-23; Jarett Patton 2 (1)-0-7; Kory Proby 1-0-2; C.J. Taylor 1-0-2; Kenny Upthegrove 1-0-2; Griffin Shaw 1 (1)-0-5; Cameron Eckles 6-5-17; Brian Wilson 0 (1)-0-3. TOTALS — 19 (5)-8-61. Free throw shooting: 8 of 11 for 73 percent. Three-point field goals: Knisley, 2; Patton, Shaw, Wilson. Field goal shooting: 24 of 48 for 50 percent. Turnovers: 12.
UNIOTO — Clay Edler 2-0-4; Logan Swackhammer 4-2-10; Sawyer Lovely 0-0-0; Casey White 0-0-0; Brandon Kennedy 1 (3)-2-13; Erique Hosley 5 (1)-1-14; Gabe Fisher 1-0-2; Isaac Wheeler 4 (1)-7-18; Peyton Hill 1-0-2. TOTALS — 18 (5)-12-63. Free throw shooting: 12 of 25 for 48 percent. Three-point field goals: Kennedy, 3; Hosley, Wheeler. Field goal shooting: 23 of 51 for 45 percent. Turnovers: 7.
Unioto edges Blue Lions in j-v game
In one of the most raucous atmospheres for a j-v game in recent years at Washington High School, Unioto slipped past Washington, 34-32 Saturday night.
Unioto hit two free throws with six seconds remaining to take the 34-32 lead.
The Blue Lions went down the court and scored, but the shot was ruled after the buzzer, which was hard to hear amid the din of crowd noise, the Shermans getting the win.
Richard Burns Jr. led the Blue Lions with 13 points.
Trey Ivey led Unioto with 16 points.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
W 9 10 11 2 — 32
U 11 7 8 8 — 34
WASHINGTON — Elijah Ruth 0-0-0; Evan Upthegrove 0-0-0; Jordan Behm 0-0-0; Austin Bailey 0 (1)-0-3; Dillon Steward 1 (1)-0-5; Nicholas Barrett 1-1-3; Richard Burns Jr. 5-3-13; Kenny Arboleda 2-2-6; Blaise Tayese 0-2-2. TOTALS — 9 (2)-8-32. Free throw shooting: 8 of 11 for 73 percent. Three-point field goals: Steward, Bailey.
UNIOTO — Dalton Poole 1-1-3; Mike Klinedinst 1-0-2; Nick Adkins 2-0-4; Trey Ivey 3 (1)-7-16; David Ater 0-0-0; Austin James 2 (1)-0-7; Keyan Cottrill 0-2-2. TOTALS — 9 (2)-10-34. Free throw shooting: 10 of 15 for 67 percent. Three-point field goals: Ivey, James.
Reach Chris Hoppes at 740-335-3611, ext. 1104, or on Twitter @choppes1