NEW MADISON – It has been a back-and-forth season so far for the Ansonia Tigers.
They did have two wins in a row over Mississinawa Valley and Franklin-Monroe but then lost to Fort Recovery right before the Christmas break. The Tigers are now 4-3 after knocking off Eaton 54-41 in the first round of the Patriot Holiday Classic tournament on Friday night and will be looking to make it two in a row again when they face Tri-Village on Saturday night in the tournament championship game.
The tournament host Patriots defeated Jefferson 57-44 in the other semifinal game.
The game was close in the first quarter with Ansonia holding a slight advantage at 8-6, but the Tigers really shined on both ends of the court in the second quarter scoring 18 points offensively, while tightening up their defense to hold the Eagles to just 5 points. It was 26-11 in favor of Ansonia at the break.
Eaton flipped the third quarter on Ansonia by outscoring them 12-5 which cut the lead to 33-23. The Eagles had a 5-0 run with less than 2 minutes to go in the period to get within 8 points, but Hunter Muir banged home a two-pointer with a few seconds left to stretch that lead back to 10 for the Tigers heading to the final frame.
With 5:35 remaining in the game, Matthew Shook got a bucket and one to give the Tigers a somewhat comfortable 40-28 lead. But the Eagles kept chipping away and by the 1;13 mark had gotten back to within nine of the Tigers at 46-37. However, Eaton began to foul intentionally to get the ball back and they sent Hunter Buckingham to the free throw line four consecutive times and he nailed 6-of-8 to help seal the win.
“I was a little worried about this game because of the break and the weird practices and just being thrown off our rhythm a little bit,” Ansonia coach Devin Limburg said. “It was an ugly game, but I feel like we uglied it up better. We made some free throws down the stretch that we needed to make. Buckingham was big for that, but I think we handled the ball well enough and our defense was pretty decent tonight too.
“I told them before the game we need to utilize our size and physicality and take advantage in the post,” he continued. “For the most part we did just that. There there were a couple of possessions we weren’t patient, but overall we did. (Hunter) Muir did a nice job taking it to the hole tonight. He did a nice job cleaning up the glass and keeping their guys out. He really did a good job disrupting those guys when they got to the paint. I don’t know how many shots he blocked or tipped, but he did a nice job.”
Buckingham led all scorers with 19 points including going 10-of-12 from the free throw line. Muir also reached double figures with 12 points for Ansonia.
“They played well on defense and our offense struggled all night,” Eaton coach Denny Shepherd said. “When you have somebody like Muir that can protect the rim, I mean you watched it a lot of our shots were short. Instead of taking jump shots we’re doing one-handers just to avoid him. He is a nice player. Every program begs and hopes for one of those every four years because he changes the game. I thought they played very well.
“When we had opportunities we were playing pretty good defense and that was keeping us in the game,” he continued. “But we missed some key free throws and some easy opportunities which if you don’t convert on those 4 turns into 8 and 8 turns into 10 and now you are down and trying to scrap back. Our kids didn’t give up. We were fighting to the end and I think we cut it to 8 or even 7, but they are a nice program. They have 3 or 4 nice seniors who show some composure and even though we got a steal here and there it wasn’t enough to turn into more for us. Ultimately, even when we were getting steals it was hard for us to score because Muir was always there. We are still working hard. I can’t fault our guys’ effort, but we just struggled offensively today.”
Eaton was led by Hunter Frost with 14 points and Dylan Jackson with 13. The loss drops the Eagles to 2-6, but the two wins are already one more than they had last season.
Score by quarters
Eaton – Dylan Jackson 5 1 13, Travis Pittman 2 0 5, Owen Baumann 2 0 5, James Howard 1 2 4, Hunter Frost 2 10 14. Totals: 12 13 41.
Ansonia – Reece Stammen 1 2 4, Hunter Buckingham 3 10 19, Ethan Fischer 1 0 3, Matthew Shook 3 1 7, Hunter Muir 5 2 12, Andrew Rowland 3 3 9. Totals: 16 18 54.
3-pointers – Eaton 4 (Jackson 2, Pittman, Baumann), Ansonia 4 (Buckingham 3, Fischer).
Records: Eaton (2-6), Ansonia (4-3).
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.