Down 17 points early in the third quarter to Portsmouth in a Division III sectional semifinal basketball matchup, the Western Indians could have easily given up. But they never did.
A lot of hard work and effort went into making a big comeback bid against the Trojans. In the end, the Indians suffered a 54-49 defeat, bringing their season to a close. But they left the court with their heads held high.
“It is not how you want to end. I told them that I played at a really high level of basketball. Now I’m old and fat and nobody cares anymore. It ends for all of us at some point. We all know how it feels. It is not fun,” said Western coach Doug Williams, who will say goodbye to a large class of seniors.
“I told them (the seniors) thank you. I was their third head coach. I was worried about how hard they were going to fight for me and play. There were two games where I felt like we quit — the Piketon game here at the Holiday Classic and at Peebles. Other than that, our kids played hard.
“Tonight we were down 15. It felt like one of those times where we were going to quit playing. The kids fought back again. For seniors to do that for a new coach, they don’t have to. They could have chosen to just get through the year. Kudos to them for not just going through the motions.”
The Indians had a good start to the game, surging out to a 7-0 lead. Maveric Ferneau started the scoring with a three-pointer before Noah Whitt and Shelden Richardson added back-to-back baskets. Whitt and fellow sophomore Kolten Miller had the job of face-guarding Portsmouth senior Matthew Fraulini throughout the game. But Trojan Miles Shipp was able to use his strength and size to get inside, whittling Western’s lead down to 8-6. Indian senior Broc Jordan went inside for a pair of baskets on the next two possessions, keeping the Indians ahead 12-8. The Trojans followed with an 8-0 burst, cashing in on three Western turnovers to go up 16-12 by the end of the quarter.
The momentum stayed with the Trojans in the second quarter as they scored 11 points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, increasing the lead to 27-12. Portsmouth’s press created a lot of Western turnovers, with the Indians suffering nine during that stretch.
Defensively, the Indians slowed Portsmouth some, but they couldn’t get a shot to fall until late in the half. Over the final four minutes, Portsmouth’s only made shot came from Daylind Thomas, which increased the lead to 29-12. Western sophomore Reed Brewster snapped the scoreless drought with a three-pointer, cutting the lead to 14, 29-15, at the half.
At that point, the Indians could have folded, but they came back out fighting. Although the Portsmouth pressure resulted in more turnovers to start the third quarter, the Indians weathered the storm. Richardson had a three-point play for his team’s first points. That three-point play came during a two-minute stretch where the Trojans scored six points, forcing more Western turnovers with the pressure. That combination put Portsmouth ahead 35-18.
Then the Indians began their comeback bid. Miller hit first before the Western defense forced a turnover and gave Richardson the opportunity to hit a three-pointer, cutting the 17-point lead down to 12, 35-23. The two teams continued to battle with Portsmouth pushing back up by 16 briefly, 42-26. Then the Indians closed the quarter with a 7-0 burst. Whitt started it by drawing a foul on a drive attempt, sinking both of his shots. Miller followed with the next bucket. Ferneau capped the run with a trifecta, trimming the Portsmouth lead to nine, 42-33, heading to the final quarter.
Ferneau started the scoring in the fourth quarter, cashing in on an assist from Richardson. Then Whitt was able to get to the foul line for two more shots, pulling the Indians within five, 42-37. The Trojans pushed back ahead by eight before Western cut it to six again, 47-41 with four minutes to go. Another minute ran off the clock before Shipp hit for Portsmouth again, increasing his team’s advantage to eight. But Miller responded with a drive and drew a foul, sinking the shot for another three-point play to cut the lead to five again, 49-44, with 2:19 to play. A Portsmouth free throw was followed by a bucket from Richardson, cashing in on a pass from Ferneau to get Western within four, 50-46. But time was running out. The Indians had to put the Trojans on the line and they did enough to stay ahead, going up 54-46 before Richardson hit the final three-pointer of the game, 54-49.
For the Indians, Richardson finished with 15 points to lead the scoring attack. Miller followed with nine points. Broc Jordan scored eight points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Maveric Ferneau also had eight points. Whitt provided six points, while Brewster hit one three-pointer.
For Portsmouth, Shipp finished with 20 points to lead the way, followed by Donovan Carr with nine and Fraulini with eight.
Williams talked about his seniors and his returning players after the game.
“I had a conversation with each one of them and told them their positives. All of us eventually do something else in life. Hopefully some of what they did here will carry over into something else that you do,” said Williams of the senior class, which included Broc Jordan, Maveric Ferneau, Austin Beckett, Shelden Richardson, Coleman Gibson, Dylan Theobald and Terrell Francis.
“We have some kids coming back and they got a lot of playing time this year,” said Williams. “Teams are made in the offseason. We are losing seven guys. I’m asking the guys coming back, ‘How much do you want to play next year? Show us in the offseason.’”
The Indians end the year at 10-13 overall. They finished Southern Ohio Conference Division I play at 7-7.
Western 49, Portsmouth 54
WESTERN (49) — Coleman Gibson 0 0-0 0, Maveric Ferneau 1 2 0-0 8, Shelden Richardson 3 2 3-7 15, Noah Whitt 1 0 4-4 6, Broc Jordan 4 0 0-0 8, Austin Beckett 0 0 0-0 0, Kolten Miller 3 0 3-3 9, Reed Brewster 0 1 0-0 3, Dylan Theobald 0 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 12 5 10-14 49.
PORTSMOUTH (54) — Amaree Johnson 0 0 1-2 1, Matthew Fraulini 1 1 3-4 8, Dariyonne Bryant 2 1 0-0 7, Drew Roe 1 0 2-6 4, Dessie Dixon 0 0 0-0 0, Miles Shipp 10 0 0-0 20, Chris Duff 0 1 0-0 3, Daylind Thomas 1 0 0-0 2, Donovan Carr 3 0 4-6 9, TOTALS 18 3 9-18 54.