Circleville opened the season by holding off visiting Miami Trace in the fourth quarter to post a 54-49 win behind a career-high 26 points from Riley Gibson.
Leading by 10 after the first quarter and by six at halftime, Circleville was tied with the Panthers at 37-37 when the third quarter drew to a close.
Gibson, a sophomore, got the Tigers going in the fourth scoring the first six.
“He’s put himself in a position to be our go-to guy,” CHS coach Tyler Cassidy said. “He’s worked extremely hard on his game over the summer, especially in the weight room. You saw the difference from last year to tonight, he’s a little bit bigger, faster, stronger and he’s finishing inside. What I like to see is that he was wanting the ball in the fourth quarter and that just talks about his winner’s mentality.”
A basket from Conner Jones pushed CHS out in front by eight points.
The Panthers tried to stay in it with a three-pointer from Trevor Barker and some free throws by Kyler Conn, but Jones scored next basket followed by two free throws from Jay Styers and a bucket from Brandon Parr to put Circleville up 51-43 with 1:36 left in the game.
MT answered back with buckets from Austin Brown and Conn to make it a four-point game with 50 seconds left.
Another basket from Jones and a free throw from Styers were enough to keep the Tigers on top.
“We work on that a lot in practice where it’s tied up with three minutes, five minutes, we’re down by four or up by four. We just worked on it yesterday and that helps us a lot and I feel like that helped us get the win,” Styers said.
That free throw gave Styers 10 points for the night. It his first varsity game since a knee injury in Circleville’s opener last season left him sidelined.
He got his first points with two minutes left in the first quarter as he sunk a three.
“It’s been a while. I blew my knee out last year and it’s been tough coming back,” Styers said “I was scoreless there for a while but it didn’t matter, I just wanted to get a win in our first game.
“When I hit that, (coach Cassidy) called a timeout, I didn’t know it but we were up by 10. Coach gave me a chest bump — it was a pretty cool moment.”
“Losing Jay last year was a huge loss for our team and very unfortunate for Jay as well to miss a whole season,” Cassidy said. “I know how much he loves the game of basketball and seeing him out there tonight and playing well and being very effective for us was great to see.”
The Panthers were able to fight their way back to tie the game in the third period in part through a 20-9 rebounding edge in those eight minutes.
“There in the third quarter we saw what could be our Achille’s heel,” Cassidy said. “We’re not a very big team and that teams runs about 6-6, 6-7 and 6-5. Usually they only had two of those guys on the boards, but those guys did an excellent job cleaning up the boards.”
“We tell our kids that high school games come down to defense and rebounding on most nights,” MT coach Rob Pittser said. “It was really good to see us use rebounding to propel ourselves and get back in the game.”
MT ended the night with a 43-38 rebounding edge led by Barker with 13 (to go with 11 points) and Brown with 12. Gibson led Circleville with nine while Styers grabbed seven.
Austin Mathews led the Panthers with 16 points.
While Pittser liked the effort he saw from his team, he said Circleville did what they needed to do to defend their home court.
“They’re a well-coached team, they’re playing at home in Game 1 in their gym with some kids who have character and grit,” he said. “They did what they needed to do to make plays, they re-established the lead and took care of the ball down the stretch well enough to get out of here. They had to really earn it there in the fourth quarter and they did so.”
The Tigers have no time to enjoy Friday’s win as they welcome in New Lexington tonight with the freshmen tipping off at 4:45.
The Panthers (0-1) return to Pickaway County Tuesday night to play Logan Elm.
- Miami Trace was a 48-45 winner in the reserve game.
Circleville was led by Logan Crabtree with 19 points and Craig Fleck with 16 while Jake Bell had nine and Drew Meadows chipped in a point.
Circleville 54, Miami Trace 49
Miami Trace — Moore 1-0-2, Barker 4-2-11, Mathews 7-1-16, Bernard 1-0-2, Conn 3-3-9, Brown 3-2-8, Rodgers 0-1-1. Three-point goals — Barker, Mathews. Totals — 19-60 9-16 49.
Circleville — Jones 4-0-8, Gibson 12-0-26, Justice 1-2-4, Park 2-0-4, Moore 1-0-2, Styers 3-3-10. Three-point goals — Gibson (2), Styers. Totals — 23-54 6-13 54.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Miami Trace 8 14 15 12 49
Circleville 18 10 9 17 54