By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
CASSTOWN — With Miami East’s boys basketball team hosting a “Turn Back the Clock” night and both teams sporting retro jerseys from the 1990s, both the Vikings and visiting Troy Christian Eagles had the more-recent past on their minds.
And with both teams coming off of tough league losses atop their respective standings, it was Troy Christian that was able to heal its wounds a bit faster, coming through in clutch situations late in the fourth quarter to pull ahead and claim a 44-37 victory Saturday at Miami East High School.
Troy Christian, which improved to 11-3 overall, had just suffered its first Metro Buckeye Conference defeat of the season the night before, falling 49-39 to Emmanuel Christian to drop into a three-way tie for first place with the Lions and Dayton Christian Warriors.
“Obviously, it’s a challenge,” Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki said. “Emmanuel was a big game for us, for first place in the league. We took a hit, and it just says a lot about these eight seniors and their character, their integrity and how they have a desire to play for each other and play hard.”
Miami East (7-5), meanwhile, dropped its second straight after falling to Cross County Conference rival National Trail 54-44 on Tuesday. Both teams had entered that matchup tied for first place, with the Vikings falling to second with the loss heading into Saturday’s non-league rivalry matchup.
“It’s tough when you focus a lot on those league games, and it certainly was a tough loss for us Tuesday,” Miami East coach Justin Roeth said. “I think that one was an emotional loss in a lot of ways, and that drained us a bit. But we’ve got to come to play, and they were in the same situation last night. We just didn’t come to play today. We needed some people to step up, and it just didn’t happen tonight in the end.
“From start to finish, it was a very even game. We just didn’t make plays down the stretch.”
The Vikings did make plays early, though, putting together a 7-0 run to take a 13-5 lead in the middle of the first quarter and leading 15-10 after one. But Troy Christian’s Connor Peters hit three first-half 3s and keyed a 7-0 run to answer and help the Eagles get back into the game, trailing only by one at 24-23 at halftime, with Peters scoring 14 of his game-high 19 points in the first half to keep Troy Christian alive.
“We got down by eight in the first half, and Connor Peters basically said, ‘No, this isn’t going to happen.’ And he basically willed us through to tie it up,” Zawadzki said. “He kept it close, kept us dangerous, then we had Brady Clawson with two big offensive rebounds in the fourth and Isaac Gray, who hadn’t made a shot all night, hit a huge 3.”
“Peters had a really good night, and we didn’t anticipate him having a game like that offensively,” Roeth said. “He stepped up and came up big for them, and it was just one of those things where we didn’t have someone do that in the second half down the stretch in some crucial moments.”
A steal and layup by Peters gave the Eagles the lead briefly near the end of the third quarter, but Miami East’s Sam Zapadka scored to give the Vikings a 30-29 lead heading into the fourth. And in the final quarter, the Eagles outrebounded the Vikings for the first time all night, with the lead going back and forth until the score was tied at 37-37 with 2:53 to play.
Overall, the Vikings outrebounded the Eagles 34-29, but in the fourth Troy Christian held an 11-8 advantage.
“We talked at halftime about how Miami East seemed a little fresher and stronger and more aggressive,” Zawadzki said. “So we had to make a decision collectively to go out and pursue the basketball with passion to rebound it as a group. We had to make a statement where all five of us were going to go get the basketball.”
After a Miami East turnover, Gray drilled a 3-pointer with 1:50 to play to give the Eagles the lead, and then a Troy Christian steal led to a putback by Clawson in transition to make it a five-point game with roughly one minute left. Gray then hit a pair of free throws with 31.1 seconds left, and the Vikings couldn’t get any shots to fall in the final three minutes.
“We didn’t make smart decisions late, and that’s something that’s haunted us in some of our losses,” Roeth said. “We’re not making good decisions in tough circumstances. We’re getting better with it, but it’s an area we have to improve in.”
Peters finished with 19 points and eight rebounds to lead the Eagles, Clawson had eight points and seven rebounds — after having only one rebound in the first half — Gray had seven points and five rebounds, Chas Schemmel scored six points and Tyler Jackson and Lucas Day each had two.
Zapadka led Miami East with 17 points, Tyler Stapleton scored eight, Collen Gudorf had four points and 13 rebounds, Brayden Young had four points and six rebounds, Aaron Lawrence had two points and five rebounds and Brendon Bertsch scored two points.
Next up for the Vikings is a Tuesday matchup against CCC foe Arcanum.
“When you shoot poorly, 28 percent from the field and 1 for 13 from 3-point range, and come up empty getting second-chance shots, we were just very limited in our scoring tonight,” Roeth said. “I thought we had good effort, but Troy Christian is just so well coached and their kids play so hard. And that’s something we can take from the game — you’ve got to play hard from start to finish.”
The Eagles, meanwhile, are off until Friday when they return to MBC play at Middletown Christian.
“We beat a very good basketball team,” Zawadzki said. “They’ve got so many strengths — they can rebound, they can shoot the basketball and they can beat you off the dribble. We beat a team that can beat anybody on any given night. This is a good win for our program.”
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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