By Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
For just the second time in 11 years, the Piqua boys basketball team kept the championship trophy in the WPTW Holiday Classic at home.
But, defending champion Troy Christian didn’t make it easy Friday night, getting within three points late before Piqua held on for a 63-55 victory.
The Indians improved to 3-5 with the win, while Troy Christian drops to 5-4.
And while Piqua entered the tournament 1-5, coach Steve Grasso wasn’t surprised by the way his team responded with two straight wins.
“We started off with a very difficult schedule,” Grasso said. “Our only conference game at home has been Greenville. We have had to play in some hostile environments.”
When Mick Karn hit a three with under three minutes to play, Piqua had a 56-41 lead. But, Troy Christian ran off 12 straight points to make it 56-53 with 57.2 seconds left.
Connor Case and Connor Peters both had threes during the run and Peters had the basket to make it a three-point game.
“There is no quit in our kids,” Robert Goldsberry, who was coaching in Ray Zawadzki’s absence due to illness, said. “We did a great job getting back in the game. I wish we had played that way the whole game.”
With less than 30 seconds to go, Piqua led by three with the ball and Troy Christian had to foul four times to send the Indians to the line. Instead, sophomore Kameron Darner hit a 3-pointer to make it 59-53 and Piqua held on from there.
“That was a situation where if that shot doens’t go in, he is probably coming out of the game,” Grasso said with a smile. “But, that was a gutsy shot from a sophomore. It was a big shot. We haven’t been in the situation where we have been playing with a lead in a close game this year. We are still learning how to do that.”
The game had been close throughout the first half.
Qurri Tucker, the tournament MVP, had 16 points in the opening two quarters, but the game was even at 29.
It was still tied at 35 with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter when Troy Christian called a timeout. The Eagles were coming off their fourth 3-pointer of the game, this one by Isaac Gray.
“We have good ball movement,” Goldsberry said. “We play a team game, not an I game and that is one of our strengths. We spread the ball around and were able to hit some big shots.”
But, coming out of the timeout, Tucker and Mick Karn had steals for layups in the next 15 seconds to give Piqua a 39-35 lead and the Indians seemed to ride that momentum.
It was 44-39 going to the final eight minutes and Karn hit a couple big threes to give Piqua a double-digit advantage.
“When Qurri Tucker does what he does, he is tough to stop,” Grasso said. “When we have ball movement from passing and not dribbling and play good defense, I think we are pretty good.”
And it was enough to survive the big run by the Eagles in the fourth quarter for the win.
Tucker finished with 25 points for Piqua, while Karn added 13 points and Darner scored nine.
Richmond, who was named to the all-tournament team and Garrett Schrubb both finished with six.
“We injected some youth into the lineup and I think that is going to help us,” Grasso said.
Peters led a balanced Troy Christian attack with 13 points.
Isaac Gray, who was named to the all-tournament team, and Connor Case finished with 11 points, while Izaak Frantom added nine points.
Karn received the academic scholarship for Piqua, while Jackson Kremer received the same honor for Troy Christian.
Qurri Tucker 10-2-25, Kameron Darner 3-2-9, Trey Richmond 3-0-6, Garrett Schrubb 2-2-6, Zach Tillman 1-0-2, Mick Karn 4-3-13, Riley Hill 1-0-2, Zack Lavey 0-0-0. Totals: 24-9-63.
Troy Christian (55)
Izaak Frantom 3-2-9, Isaac Gray 4-0-11, Connor Case 5-0-11, Jackson Kremer 1-2-4, Brady Clawson 1-1-3, Connor Peters 6-0-13, Chace Varvel 1-0-2, Tyler Jackson 1-0-2. Totals: 22-5-55.
3-point field goals — Piqua: Tucker (3), Darner, Karn (2). Troy Christian: Frantom, Gray (3), Case, Peters.
Score By Quarters
Piqua 17 29 44 63
Troy Christian 18 29 39 55
Records: Piqua 3-5, Troy Christian 5-3.