By JOHN HOWLEY / sportingpumpkin.com
CIRCLEVILLE — Huntington had the upper hand down the stretch as the Huntsmen thwarted host Circleville’s efforts for a 63-60 non-league win Tuesday night.
“I felt like we made too many mistakes to win that ballgame,” Circleville coach Cody Carpenter said. “Huntington did a great job, but I also felt like we kind of shot our ownselves in the foot with a couple mental breakdowns offensively and defensively and, in the end, it cost us.”
The Tigers had a four-point lead starting the fourth quarter, had it up to seven a minute in and led 58-52 with 3:10 to play in the game.
Huntington was the only team to score over the next two minutes with buckets from Dalton Haubeil and Gavin Free. Circleville let a couple scoring chances slip away in that span missing the front ends of two one-and-one opportunities.
The Huntsmen’s Caleb Smith came through with 39 seconds left hitting a three and giving his team its first lead since early in the third.
Eleven seconds later, it was Evan Justice — who had a career-high 29 points — sinking his 15th and 16th free throws of the night to put Circleville back on top at 60-59.
Smith came through again as he sunk another three-pointer with 15 seconds left to put Huntington on top to stay.
After the Tigers failed to convert on the offensive end, Smith was fouled with five seconds remaining. He hit the first free throw but missed the second. Circleville rebounded and had a good look at a game-tieing shot but it was off the mark giving the Huntsmen the win.
The game started off much differently as the Tigers scored seven of the game’s first eight points and led 23-15 at the end of the quarter.
“It’s the first time I really felt like we started off strong. We wanted to beat them off the dribble, get our dribble drives and get our kick-outs going but we were able to get all the way to the rim and finish, Evan did a great job with that,” Carpenter said. “Trevor (Coleman) did a nice job sliding down to the corner when they did collapse and we got a couple threes off that.”
Carpenter said that despite the lead, they didn’t feel their defense had been as good as it should have and that came back to haunt the Tigers in the second quarter.
“The second quarter, we weren’t finishing our shots, finishing our free throws, they started slowing making a run and that’s how we got down at halftime,” he said.
Going scoreless in the final three-and-a-half-minutes of the half, Circleville saw a 32-28 lead turn into a 37-32 Huntington advantage.
CHS came out strong again to start the second half with a couple quick buckets off turnovers and scored the first 13 points of the quarter to lead 45-37 with 3:40 left in the period. The Tigers added only two more points – free throws in the final second – in the quarter as Huntington closed the gap to four points.
“We started off real strong in the second half – good defensive stop, transition bucket – good defensive stop, transition bucket. Then we stopped doing what was working for us,” Carpenter said. “We took too many contested threes when we were able to get to the rim often.
“We came back in the second half with a strong start but allowed them to creep back in.”
The big night from Justice is something Carpenter said they’ve been working on with the senior. With fellow senior guard Riley Gibson sidelined before the season with an injury, the team is looking to Justice play a bigger role.
“That’s something we have really been talking about with Evan. Last year he was more of a one-dimensional type of offensive player – he was more of a catch and shoot. And that was a credit to having Riley Gibson,” Carpenter said. “With Riley out, Evan is having to handle a lot more of the ball and the first couple games he was still trying to chuck up too many threes. We continued to drill it in his head, ‘listen man, if they’re going to try to play you one-on-one, nobody is guarding you, get to the rim.’ If he’s not making his layups, he’s getting to the free throw line. He’s doing what we asked of him. And I was really pleased with his defensive effort in the second half.”
Carpenter said Tuesday’s loss goes back to getting a few more guys to step up. “It goes back to the defensive end, we can’t give up 63 points and expect to win,” he said. “We just have to better.”
Smith and Brian Hertenstein led the Huntsmen with 15 points each while Free had 13 and Haubeil had 10.
Along with Justice’s 29, Circleville got 11 from freshman Briley Cramer and eight each from Coleman and Ethan Moore.
The Huntsmen had a 31-29 rebounding edge in the game. Justice and Moore each had six for the Tigers.
The Tigers will come back after the Christmas break with another opponent out of the Scioto Valley Conference as they host Unioto on Tuesday. Huntington is scheduled to host Wheelersburg on Tuesday.
Huntington scored six points in the last 22 seconds to win the JV game 53-50.
Wes Brown led the Huntsmen with 15 points and Jackson Stansberry added 13.
Nolan West was the leading scorer for the Tigers with 13 points and Slater Search had 10. Parker Kidwell added nine for CHS, Matthew Bradley, Scottie Moats and Winston Jones each had four and Drew Moats and Preston Hulse each had three.
Huntington 63, Circleville 60
Huntington — Gavin Free 6-1-13, Brian Hertenstein 6-2-15, Dalton Haubeil 3-2-10, Seth McCloskey 0-1-1, Caleb Smith 6-1-15, Darius Brown 2-0-5, Dalton Black 2-0-4. Three-point goals — Hertenstein, Haubeil (2), Smith (2), Brown. Total — 25-53 7-16 63.
Circleville — Evan Justice 6-16-29, Trevor Coleman 3-0-8, Briley Cramer 5-0-12, Ethan Moore 4-0-8, Craig Fleck 1-0-3. Three-point goals — Justice, Coleman (2), Cramer (2). Total — 19-63 16-23 62.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Huntington 15 22 6 20 63
Circleville 23 9 15 13 60