By Drew Terhall
ANSONIA — The Arcanum High School boys basketball held strong and fended off the Ansonia High School boys basketball team for a 57-48 win on Feb. 10 at Ansonia.
The Trojans were leading this game by 11 points heading into the fourth quarter. Once Ansonia got the game to within two points, Arcanum head coach Roger McEldowney said he told his team to embrace the situation and fight through it.
“I told our guys when it got close, ‘We didn’t want it to be like this. But at the same time, it’s going to be a good tournament preparation game for us. So let’s just buckle down and and finish this one out.’ That’s what we did,” McEldowney said.
At halftime, Arcanum was leading 33-16. Senior Nick Sharritts and freshman Regan Christ was getting the offense going early and often. Christ had 11 points in the first half and Sharritts had 10 points.
Ansonia tried to deny the entry passes to Sharritts. They had some success with that, but couldn’t stop the Arcanum forwards and guards from getting to the basket.
The Tigers also couldn’t get the offense in rhythm early as their leading scorer, junior Garrett Stammen, was on the bench early with two fouls. Both were charging calls. McEldowney said they knew Stammen would look to drive down the lane and encouraged his players to take the charge. He also said they do reward players for taking charges.
Once the second half started, Ansonia started to play better basketball. All season long, they have been known to start slow but finish strong. Ansonia head coach Tony Overton said once he started to implement his standards and build the culture he has envisioned for the program, the team as fought back in these types of games.
“I got a certain standard that I go by. To be quite honest coming in, I was scared to drop the hammer early. Early on the season in situations like this, we would fold and get beat by 30. Now, we’re over that,” Overton said.
The Tigers came out started to score a few baskets. After Arcanum responded, Ansonia didn’t blink and started to gain some momentum in the game. They were able to get back into the game without Stammen for a majority of the third quarter as he picked up his fourth foul early in the second half.
The Trojans still led 43-32 after the third quarter. They did enough offensively to maintain their double-digit lead.
But the Tigers would come roaring back in the fourth quarter. With 3:37 left in the quarter, Ansonia was down five points. They eventually got to within two points late.
While Arcanum couldn’t shut the door comfortable on Ansonia, they were able to gain control of the game with their defense. They didn’t allow the Tigers to get a lead late in this game.
“I give our kids a lot of credit. They played great defense and that’s what we got to continue to do if we want to make a run in the tournament,” McEldowney said.
Arcanum stayed calm as Ansonia started to intentionally foul late. The Trojans went 12 for 15 from the free throw line and put the game out of reach.
Christ led the team in scoring with 17 points. Sharritts finished the game with 16 points.
Arcanum will have one last game at home against Greenon on Feb. 11 before they head to Northmont to play Waynesville on Feb. 14 for their first game of the postseason. The Trojans are 11-9 with a 6-5 conference record.
Stammen finished the game with 15 points. Senior Ian Schmitmeyer had 10 points in the game.
Overton said the team is still working on being more mentally tough. He believes his players in the program have the talent to be better. He said his team has proven to be able to hang with teams like Russia, Preble Shawnee and Tri-Village for stretches of a game. Overton also said if some of the players just give a little bit more time to basketball and make it more than a hobby, they can compete with Tri-Village and Preble Shawnee on a year to year basis.
For now, Ansonia is 11-10 with a 5-6 conference record. They will travel to Fairlawn on Feb. 11 before they take on Bradford for a second time. This time around, they meet the Railroaders in the first round of the tournament.
Ansonia lost at Bradford on Dec. 9, 58-47. This time, Bradford will be without senior Parker Davidson. However, Overton still expects a tough game against them.
“They’re still a good team without him (Davidson). That’s a great coach over there and I know he’s going to adapt. We got to match that. It’s going to be a good ole’ fashion WOAC battle,” Overton said.
Contact Daily Advocate sports editor Drew Terhall at [email protected]