By Cody Leist
WAVERLY — No team could understand Lynchburg-Clay’s pain after Saturday’s Division III Southeast Sectional Final more than Portsmouth.
That’s because the Trojans were on the losing side of a buzzer-beater in last year’s sectional tournament. Fast forward to this year as Portsmouth relied on a shot at the horn from Sky Oliver to eliminate the Mustangs 55-53 in Saturday’s sectional final at Waverly’s Downtown Gymnasium. The Trojans move on to the Feb. 2 district semifinals against No. 2 South Point, a team that defeated Portsmouth earlier this season and a squad that struggled to defeat No. 10 Waverly 37-27 in a sectional final at Jackson.
“It feels really, really great with this group because this time last year, we were feeling like Lynchburg-Clay with (Wheelersburg’s) Dylan Miller hitting a big three and beating us,” Trojans coach Gene Collins said.
Oliver, whose shot tied him with teammate Ky’re Allison for team-high scoring honors, is excited to be moving on to the districts.
“This is our time so this should pretty be fun,” Oliver said.
Despite multiple attempts to break the game open, Portsmouth’s lead never grew above 10 when Allison’s 3-pointer made it a 42-32 affair late in the third and matched before the horn at 44-34 on a field goal by Gage Waits and a pair of Isiaha Lisath’s free throws.
In the fourth quarter, Lynchburg-Clay continued to chip away at the lead. Although they had yet to lead at any point in the game, Waits tied the game with 8.3 seconds remaining.
“We made some mistakes, missed some free throws and let them back in,” Collins said. “(The Mustangs) kept on making plays.”
Out of the Lynchburg-Clay timeout, Collins admitted the goal was to put the ball in Allison’s first then Oliver if the sophomore was well-defended. Oliver, who was among a number of Trojans to be under the weather, was charged with the role of hero.
“I wasn’t going to take it because I seen Isiaha open in the corner but I figured that I could shoot it,” Oliver said.
Oliver admitted he didn’t think it was going in when it left his hands.
After connecting on 11 3-pointers in Wednesday’s 76-72 semifinal win over West, the Mustangs were held to 3-of-19 shooting from the arc. Waits led all scorers with 26 points.
By moving on, Collins feels his team can do some damage with potentially four games at Ohio University’s Convocation Center, where Portsmouth has won eight-straight tournament games at the site.
“We’ve had a lot of success in The Convo and it’s great for this young group to get out of this tough sectional and move on with the other Scioto County teams.”
The Trojans are one of three teams from the county, including Valley and Wheelersburg, to advance in Division III. Minford advanced Friday night into the Division II district tournament and more schools in the county could be punching tickets to Athens this week in the Division IV tournament.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or on Twitter @CodyLeist.
Lynchburg-Clay 10 12 12 19 — 53
Portsmouth 17 10 17 11 — 55
Lynchburg-Clay — Waits 9-7-26, R. Inman 5-1-11, Pierson 2-2-8, Ahrman 3-0-6, Totals 20-10-53.
Portsmouth — Oliver 7-1-18, Lisath 2-0-5, Alllison 6-5-18, Reynolds 1-4-6, Gibson 2-2-6, Delotell 1-0-2, Totals 19-12-55.
3-Point Goals — 3 (Pierson 2, Waits); Portsmouth 5 (Oliver 3, Lisath, Allison).
Records — Lynchburg-Clay 17-6; Portsmouth 18-4.