By Rob Kiser
VANDALIA — For three-and-a half quarters, Piqua was completely in control against Vandalia-Butler at the Student Activites Center Friday night.
In the end, it took some clutch free throws by Bradley Hohlbein and Derrick Gullett in the final minute to preserve a 75-70 victory.
The Indians, 8-5 overall and 2-2 in the GWOC North, had led Vandalia, 2-9 overall and 0-4 in the GWOC North, by 14 midway through the third quarter before Vandalia-Butler rallied.
But, Piqua coach Heath Butler, who has seen it from his team in several games this year, understands the situation.
“This program is not where it was five years ago,” Butler said about Piqua. “We have a lot more talent on the floor now. They think they have to make a great play, when just making a good play and playing solid is good enough. They want to win so bad. It is just a matter of trying too hard at times to make plays.”
With Colton Bachman scoring 27 points on eight-for-12 shooting in the first three quarters —- including five threes — his 27 points had led Piqua to a 54-43 lead after three quarters.
Then, Butler’s Zach Leadbetter hit three consecutive 3-point field goals and Piqua’s lead was just 58-53 with 5:50 remaining in the game.
“He (Zach Leadbetter) is a really good player,” Butler said. “When he does that, you want to be able to answer that.”
With Gullet scoring four free throws and Tyren Cox getting a basket inside, Piqua built the lead back up to 69-59 with 2:59 to play.
“Those are big plays, but they are little plays,” Butler said. “You want to see that from your role players. Derrick Gullett hitting free throws or grabbing loose balls is a little thing. Tyren Cox jumping as high as he can for a rebound is a little thing.”
Butler kept coming and three free throws by Brian Jenkins closed the Piqua lead to 70-67 with 57 seconds to play.
Hohlbein hit two straight free throws, Gullett — who made five of six in the fourth quarter — and Bachman each hit one of two to seal the win.
“Anytime you can get a win down here, you have to feel good,” Butler said. “This is a place where we struggled to win for a long time.”
Bachman had a game-high 30 points for Piqua, while Gullett scored 14 and Hohlbein added 13.
Nate Monnin had eight points and six rebounds, while Gullett and Cox both grabbed five boards.
Leadbetter had 28 points and six rebounds to pace the Aviators, while Jenkins added 14 points and seven rebounds.
Piqua was 22 of 41 from the floor and 20 of 35 from the line, while Vandalia was 28 of 65 from the floor and six of nine from the line.
Butler won the battle of the boards 32-25 and had 10 turnovers to Piqua’s 12.
Piqua now plays in the Flyin’ To The Hoop Tournament at 10 a.m. Monday at Trent Arena in Kettering.
“When you get a win and have things to work on, that is a good thing,” Butler said. “I have no doubt the kids will come back in tomorrow morning and start working on getting better and getting ready for Marion Catholic.”
That is one thing Butler never has to worry about with his team.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.