After two straight blowout losses, and with three consecutive road games coming up, the Piqua Indians needed a bit of a breather. The West Carrollton Pirates turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.
Piqua – With Four minutes and fifty-nine seconds remaining in the second quarter of the junior varsity game between the Piqua Indians and the West Carrollton Pirates, the lights went out in Garbry Gym.
After a 15-minute delay, the lamps came back on, and play proceeded without further interruption.
When the varsity game started an hour later, it was the Indians who turned out the lights on the still-winless Pirates.
After a lackluster first quarter that saw Piqua holding a 9-8 lead, the Indians scored the first 16 points of the second quarter. The Pirates missed their first 11 shots in the quarter and never recovered, as Piqua rolled to a much-needed 63-44 win before a sparse Tuesday night crowd.
“I don’t know if we needed a win so much as we needed to keep playing better,” said Piqua coach Heath Butler after the Indians improved to 3-7. “I thought we played well against Trotwood (a 73-45 loss last Friday) but just didn’t execute for 32 minutes. We got closer to that tonight. Still things to work on, but anytime you get a 19 point win in the GWOC, I don’t care how many games the other team has won, you go home happy.”
Ben Schmiesing led the second quarter charge with 11 points, and Caleb Patton added 7 as the Indians built a 32-10 lead. Schmiesing finished with a game high 18 points, with Patton right behind with 17.
“That is a trademark of a mentally tough, emotionally tough team,” Butler said about the Indians second quarter run. “We knew West Carrollton had struggled and gave up a lot of points, and sometimes it’s easy to panic and put a lot of pressure on yourself. We handled their pressure very well, we rebounded very well, and I’m proud of how we kept our composure tonight.”
The Pirates frustration was obvious on the floor and on the bench. During one second quarter possession, a Pirate assistant was overheard asking “What the heck are we running?” “I have no idea” came the answer from another assistant.
After missing all five of their first quarter three attempts, the Indians made 7 of 15 from deep the rest of the way. Patton and Gage Smith both hit a pair, while Schmiesing, Nick Rigola and Xion Harrison also connected behind the arc. For the night, Piqua out-scored West Carrollton 21-3 from long range.
“It was good to see Caleb (Patton) play well for us,” acknowledged Butler. “If I had known that moving the student section behind our bench would give Caleb that extra motivation, I would have done it before now. He was very aggressive and shot the ball well. He is an important piece of our team.”
The Indians had struggled from the foul line through the first nine games, hitting just 58%. But after a 1-3 first quarter, Piqua made 15 of 17 the rest of the night to finish at 80%.
“People will think we spent a lot of practice time at the free throw line. We didn’t,” Butler insisted. “We didn’t do anything different. Free throw shooting is such a mindset. We just said go up there and knock it down. You have to take advantage when you can shoot with no one guarding you, and we did a nice job of that tonight.”
Nate Monnin and Gage Smith both added 8 for the Indians, while Veshawn Champion came off the bench to score 11 for the pirates and Darlane Matthews added 10.
On the night, the Indians were 20 of 47 for 43%, while the Pirates were 19 of 56 for 34%. West Carrollton was just 1 of 9 behind the arc, and 5 of 8 at the line.
Piqua dominated the boards 37-24, but had 16 turnovers to the Pirates 12.
“We still have some issues handling the ball,” Butler admitted. “Sometimes we got a little loose with the ball and had some passing and catching errors. We need to get better in that area, and it will remain a focus of ours in practice.”
Butler said the win was important with three straight road games ahead, starting Friday night at Xenia.
“We needed to get one tonight, especially with a road doubleheader this weekend. (Piqua is at St. Marys Saturday.) We have to keep working to get better. We need two really good days of practice to get ready for this weekend.”
And the coach continues to like what he sees from the Indians, despite the record.
“Most people don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, all the work the kids put in. People want to see us win, which is great, but the kids need something to see that their hard work is paying off. You have to have the mindset that even after a win, we have to keep working to get better.
“The goal is to be playing our best basketball at the end of January and early February. Then, with the tournament, if we get hot at the right time, who knows what might happen. Right now, we have to take it one practice, one drill, one game at a time, and always be working to get better.”