CHILLICOTHE – The first and second halves told opposite stories Friday night.
At Chillicothe High School’s Hatton Memorial Gymnasium, the Cavaliers won the first half. However, Washington Court House stole the show in the second, rallied around its star point guard and snuck back onto its bus ride home with a 46-39 victory.
“It wasn’t pretty but we got the job done,” Washington Court House coach Shannon Bartruff said. “We didn’t execute very well offensively and we had 21 turnovers unofficially when I looked at the book. We didn’t get a lot of clean shots off in our half court offense and our transition was just okay. But (senior point guard) Max (Knisley) made some great plays down the stretch and CJ Taylor made some big plays and came up with some big rebounds. I’d rather win ugly than not win at all.”
Knisley led the Blue Lions (2-2, 1-1 South Central Ohio League) with 21 points, including a 5-for-6 stint from the charity stripe in final minute to put the game on ice.
“Our kids know and Max knows that we, as coaches, want the ball in his hands in those late situations,” Bartruff said. “He did a great job. He’s not scared of those moments. He wants the ball. That’s huge for our team and it’s so nice to have a guy like that.”
Knisley scored the game’s first bucket and Chillicothe’s Nate Rosenbauer scored the Cavaliers’ first five points. At the 6:36 mark in the first quarter, Chillicothe (1-2, 1-1 SCOL) held a 5-4 lead.
With the score tied at 10 and with 4:28 left, Jordan Johnson hit two three balls to give the Cavaliers a 16-10 lead at the end of the first.
The second eight minutes was a much closer affair.
After senior Matt Benson got a shot to go at the 7:13 mark, the Blue Lions pieced together a quick 5-2 run to cut the deficit to 20-17 with 1:49 left before the break. Johnson and Knisley then traded buckets before Washington Court House’s Kenny UptheGrove hit a 3-pointer in the corner to push the halftime score to 27-22 in Chillicothe’s favor.
Coming out of the locker rooms, the Blue Lions took advantage of a missing Benson, who did not return due to health concerns.
Behind Knisley and Taylor, Washington outscored Chillicothe 10-4 in the third and took a 32-31 edge into the final go around.
“Someone had to just make some plays,” Bartfuff said. “It was kind of ugly and someone had to step up. Our kids gutted it out.”
Simon Roderick gave Chillicothe a 33-32 lead in the opening minutes of the fourth and Kristian Boltenhouse gave the Cavs a 37-36 lead with just over five minutes to play. However, the Blue Lions simply kept clawing back.
Knisley hit a three to make it 41-37 with 3:41 to go before Boltenhouse made it 41-39 with a put back attempt at 3:11 — the Cavaliers’ final bucket. Knisley than hit his five free throw attempts to round out the final.
“The rebounds bother me. The turnovers bother me,” Bartruff said. “But to hold (Chillicothe) to 39 points tonight, that’s a great accomplishment. They scored 64 the other night against Hillsboro and I don’t think they had anybody in double digits. That’s solid for us.”
After Knisley’s 21, Cameron Eckles added 11 and Jarett Payton finished with seven more.
For Chillicothe, Jordan Johnson, Nate Rosenbauer and Seth Barnes all finished with nine points. Those three also combined for seven rebounds and two assists. Boltenhouse finished the night with six points and eight boards while Branden Maughmer had a bucket and seven rebounds.
The Cavaliers will next travel to McClain — head coach Eric Huffer’s alma mater — on Tuesday.