By Rob Kiser
KETTERING — What a difference a year makes.
In their Flyin’ To The Hoop debut last January, Piqua had lost 96-48 to Cincinnati Walnut Hills with MaCio Teague scoring 51 points.
In their second appearance Monday at Trent Arena, the Indians were in the game to the very end before losing to Marion Catholic (Ill.) 63-51.
“That is a really good team,” Piqua coach Heath Butler said. “They will be nationally ranked next year, if not by the end of this year. We did (make a much better showing). I thought the kids did a nice job.”
Marion Catholic, 13-4, came in with the top Illinois point guard prospect in Chase Adams and one of the country’s top point guard prospects in Brandon Hurt — and both are sophomores.
They also featured the tandom of 6-foot-8 junior TeeAaron Powell and 6-foot-7 senior Myles Howard, to go with 6-5 junior Austin Richie.
And it was the Thunderbirds who got off to a fast start, jumping out to a 14-5 lead with 3:02 to go in the first quarter and forcing Butler to call a timeout.
But, the Indians settled down and when Bradley Hohlbein hit a three to start the second quarter, Piqua trailed 16-13.
And from the start, Piqua’s 6-foot-3 junior Nate Monnin more than held his own with the big boys inside, scoring eight points in the first half and recording a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought Nate (Monnin) was outstanding,” Butler said. “I think we had some nerves at the start and he may have been a little intimidated. But, once he settled down, he went right at them and wasn’t intimidated at all.”
With Powell and Richie both scoring 10 points in the opening half and Hurt adding nine, Marion Catholic led 34-21 at the break.
But, Piqua came right back in the third quarter, outpointing the Thunderbirds 19-11 to get within 45-40 heading to the final eight minutes.
Colton Bachman closed the third quarter with four straight points and when Hohlbein hit two free throws with 7:57 to go, Piqua trailed just 45-42.
A Brady Hill putback with 6:30 to go got Piqua back within 49-44, but the Indians would score just two points over the next five minutes.
“We had some good looks and we couldn’t score,” Butler said. “It was the little things that were the difference today. Not catching a pass here or there — not getting a rebound or making shot.”
Richie hit two threes and Adams added one as the Thunderbirds opened the lead back up to double digits and held on for the win.
“That was the difference in the game,” Butler said. “They hit those shots. We got some of the same shots and didn’t hit them.”
Bachman had 13 points to go with Monnin’s double-double, while Hohlbein added eight and CJ Davis scored seven.
Richie had 21 points to pace Marion Catholic.
Powell scored 14, Hurt netted 12 and Adams added 11.
Piqua was 19 of 50 from the floor for 38 percent and seven of 10 from the line for 70 percent.
Marion Catholic was 22 of 44 from the floor for 50 percent and 12 of 15 from the line for 80 percent.
Piqua won the battle of the boards 23-19 and had 15 turnovers to the Thunderbirds 17.
Piqua, 8-6, will be back in action Friday, hosting Troy.
“We did a lot of good things today,” Butler said. “I thought we passed the ball really well — sometimes we made that extra pass we didn’t need to make instead of taking the opening shot. I thought we did a much better job defensively.”
All of which was different from a year ago.
Marion Catholic (63)
Chase Adams 3-2-11, Brandon Hurt 4-4-12, Austin Richie 8-1-21, Myles Howard 0-1-1, TeeAaron Powell 6-2-14, Sean Taylor 0-2-2, Steven Ross 0-0-0, Warren Allen 0-0-0, Ethan Kelly 0-0-0, Joseph Stith 0-0-0, Ethan Fennell 1-0-2. Totals: 22-11-63.
Bradley Hohlbein 2-2-8, Derrick Gullett 1-0-2, Nate Monnin 6-0-12, CJ Davis 3-0-7, Colton Bachman 3-5-13, Ben Schmiesing 0-0-0, Nash Black 2-0-4, Brady Hill 1-0-2, Tyren Cox 0-0-0, Caleb Patton 0-0-0, Hunter Hawk 0-0-0, Kam Ashton 0-0-0, Gage Smith 1-0-3, JJ Rohrbach 0-0-0. Totals: 19-7-51.
3-point field goals — Marion Catholic: Adams (3), Richie (4). Piqua: Hohlbein (2), Davis, Bachman (2), Smith.
Score By Quarters
Marion Catholic 16 34 45 63
Piqua 10 21 40 51
Records: Marion Catholic 13-4, Piqua 8-6.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call, He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.