By Cody Leist
WAVERLY — Only three players scored in a winning basketball game Saturday and even the victorious coach thought it was an odd occurance.
That was the best way to describe Wheelersburg coach Steven Ater’s reaction after his No. 7 Pirates defeated No. 2 Zane Trace 50-46 in a Division III Southeast Sectional Final held at Waverly’s Downtown Gymnasium.
“That defies a lot of logic,” Ater said. “I can’t explain that.”
Wheelersburg relied on strong start from Jacob Spradlin, a strong finish from Dylan Miller and a consistent scoring effort from J.D. Widdig to punch its ticket to the districts. Ater felt the pace and the tempo were keys against a Pioneer squad that received statewide recognition by the Associated Press polls for the second half of the season.
“I thought defensively, we were locked in pretty solid all night,” Ater said. “They’re a good team that’s going to get points, they’re going to find a way to score.”
In the first half, Zane Trace didn’t have an answer for Spradlin, who converted on five of his seven shots and had 13 points to lead all scorers in a 23-20 contest. At one point, he made four-straight shots that he attempted.
However, the largest Pirate lead at that point was the 13-5 margin that ended the first. The Pioneers cut the defect to 21-20 late in the half on a Tyler Hinty bucket.
With an 11-5 run to start the third, an Eric Hutton 3-pointer gave Zane Trace its first lead at 31-28. However, Ater felt comfortable with the surroundings despite trailing for the first time in the game.
For the remaining minutes of the third, the Pioneers held for the last shot, taking off two minutes of game time without a challenge. However. the move backfired as it resulted into a turnover and Wheelersburg entered the fourth looking at a scoreboard that read 32-31 against their favor.
The fourth quarter belonged to Miller, with nine of his team’s 19 points in the fourth coming off his hands. The senior, who also grabbed 10 rebounds, was 5-of-6 from the free throw line in the fourth to close out the contest. Half of his game-high 18 points came in the final eight minutes of the game.
“I looked at Dylan and I said finish it,” Ater said. “He looked at me, nodded and he did. He was huge in the second half.”
While the victors had a limited number of options get into the contact, Pierce Mowery matched Miller’s efforts for game-high honors as Zane Trace had nine players crack the scoring column.
Wheelersburg returns to March 2 at Ohio University’s Convocation to battle with No. 3 Cheapeake, which defeated No. 11 Ironton 74-49 in another sectional final that took place at Jackson High School.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or on Twitter @CodyLeist.
Wheelersburg 13 10 8 19 — 50
Zane Trace 5 15 12 14 — 46
Wheelersburg — Widdig 5-4-15, Spradlin 6-1-17, Miller 5-8-18, Totals 16-13-5o.
Zane Trace — Hutton 1-0-2, Mowery 6-1-18, Nesser 1-0-3, Newman 1-0-2. Rittenhouse 1-0-2, Hall 1-0-3, Boltenhouse 1-0-2, Hinty 3-0-7, Stmith 2-2-7
3-Point Goals — Wheelersburg 5 (Spradlin 4, Widdid); Zane Trace 9 (Mowery 5, Hall, Hinty, Smith).
Records — Wheelersburg 14-7; Zane Trace 17-4