By Rob Kiser
Both Troy Christian and Lehman are young boys basketball teams who will only get better with experience.
In the opening game of the Green Bracket of the Buckeye Insurance Group Holiday Classic Tuesday at Garbry Gymnasium, it was Troy Christian who got the better of it in the first half —before the Cavaliers turned the tables in the second half for a 58-49 victory.
Lehman (2-4) will play the Russia-Covington winner in the championship game at 7 p.m. Wednesday, with Troy Christian playing the loser of that game in the consolation game at 4 p.m.
Troy Christian had taken a 12-point lead at 32-20 early in the third quarter when Seth Wynne made a basket and Chase Hayden made a free throw — but Lehman outscored them 38-17 the rest of the way.
“The difference was we got in foul trouble in the first half,” Lehman coach Tim Gleason said. “We have a philosophy that you get two fouls, you are done for the half and we had three main players with two fouls. In the second half, we were able to come out and step up the pressure again — and create some easy baskets.”
“We hit a little drought in the third quarter,” Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki said. “We were a young team and still learning.”
Gleason saw the growth he was looking for from his team in the second half.
Michael Bunker scored seven points inside in the third quarter, with Kameron Lee scoring three big baskets in the fourth quarter and Ben Frantz hitting a big three.
Hayden had a steal and layup with 3:15 to go to get the Eagles within 47-45, before Dylan Arnold tipped in a rebound as he was fouled. He missed the free throw, but Lee scored four straight points to make it 53-45 and Troy Christian could never get closer than six the rest of the way.
After trailing 7-2 in the early going, Troy Christian turned it around to lead 29-20 at halftime.
“I thought in the first half, we were able to force them into some turnovers and create some things,” Zawadzki said. “This tournament is a perfect fit for us. We told the kids to treat it like the second round of the sectionals and the sectional final. You have four really competitive teams. This is a great experience for us.”
Arnold led Lehman with 22 points and six rebounds. Frantz scored 10 points and Bunker grabbed seven rebounds.
Sophomore James Anderson led Troy Christian with 15 points and six rebounds, Hayden scored 10 points and Wynne grabbed eight rebounds.
“This was big for us,” Gleason said. “We have been struggling. This is a growing season for us, and it is just great to see the kids go out and play like that.”
For both teams, the experience is only going to make them better.
Editor’s note: Both the Tippecanoe-Piqua game and the Russia-Covington game were not complete at time of press.
Rob Kiser can be reached at (937) 451-3334.