PDT Sports Writer
JACKSON — With the flick of the wrist, Dylan Miller erased a season’s worth of heartbreak and in the process, kept Wheelersburg’s season going.
The junior knocked down the game’s lone 3-pointer for the No. 9 Pirates Monday at the buzzer to knock off No. 8 and defending Division III State Runner-Up Portsmouth 45-42 in a Division III Southeast Sectional Semifinal at Jackson High School. Now Wheelersburg’s attention will be focused on Friday’s Sectional Championship against No. 1 Ironton.
“I was just standing in the corner and the play was going to be the opposite side and then swung around,” Miller said. “I just had to wait patiently and wait for the ball to get around. People made some good drives, good kicks and Clay (Massie) finished off with a good drive to the middle and kicked it out.”
The finish capped off a 19-5 fourth quarter in favor of ‘Burg.
The Trojans, down 11-8 entering the second quarter, were a perfect 9-for-9 from the field in the frame to take a 27-16 lead at the half.
“We had a really good second quarter coming off of a slow first quarter,” Portsmouth coach Gene Collins said. “It was just one of those things where mental fatigue kind of set in with us in the fourth quarter.”
At the break, Pirates coach Tom Barrick knew his team was at an impasse.
“We told the kids at halftime, the second quarter was self-inflicted,” Barrick said. “We got tempo a little bit faster than what it needed to be and the second quarter was a lot of our undoing.”
The tide started to go back in favor of Wheelersburg in the form of a 9-3 run to close out the third period. Barrick knew it was at that point, his team started to believe.
“We’ve had such a tough year with those one-possession games,” Barrick said. “We’ve lost so many one-possession games so for our kids to come back and to win that game is just a tremendous credit to our kids. I can’t say enough about how they buckled down and made plays that they needed to play.”
Ky’re Allison started the fourth with a three-point play to give the Trojans a 40-23 lead. The final basket of the game for Portsmouth came courtesy of a Sky Oliver field goal to make it a 42-31 affair.
Collins said his team was trying to work the ball inside to get quality shots. Instead, the Trojans committed five of their 11 turnovers in the final eight minutes of play.
“The pressure really, really bothered us,” Collins said.
With 24.2 seconds remaining, Barrick called for time and drew up the game-winner.
“In the final huddle, we were most concerned about getting the ball back inbounds,” Barrick said. “That’s the thing about taking a timeout in that situation is you want to make sure you get the ball back inbounds.
We knew what we were going to do, we were going to run the play. The play was to get Dylan opposite of the basketball because we knew that they would guard the basketball well. It wasn’t a thing of beauty and it ended up in the right person’s hands, where we wanted it to go, but it took the long way around.”
Dylan Miller led the Pirates with 15 points while Eddie Miller, who Barrick thought played his best game the second half of the season, finished with 13.
Allison led all scorers with 17 points while Jayllen Carter, the lone returning member from last year’s run, finished his high school career with 14. Collins thanked Carter and his classmates, Connor Lasswell, Levi Porter and Austin Peano, for their work in the program and making sacrifices along the way.
“That’s not how we wanted to end the year, getting bowed out in the first round play-in game,” Collins said. “It’s disappointing, we felt like we had the game in hand and then we just started turning it over.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wheelersburg 11 5 13 16 — 45
Portsmouth 8 19 10 5 — 42
Wheelersburg — E. Miller 4-5-13, Claxon 1-2-4, Cowgill 2-2-6, Massie 0-1-1, D. Miller 5-4-15, Moore 2-2-6, Totals 14-16-45.
Portsmouth — Oliver 3-0-6, Allison 7-1-17, Dickerson 1-0-2, Carter 6-2-14, Gibson 1-1-3, Totals 18-4-42.
3-Point Goals — Wheelersburg 1 (D. Miller); Portsmouth 2 (Allison 2).
Records — Wheelersburg 9-13; Portsmouth 10-13.