By Rob Kiser
If you simply listened to the coaches comments after the Piqua boys basketball teams 62-53 win over Lehman Catholic in the Buckeye Insurance Group Holiday Classic Thursday night, you wouldn’t have been sure who won.
Piqua, 3-4, will play Troy Christian, 6-2, in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Lehman Catholic, 2-5, will play 2-6 Covington in the consolation game at 6 p.m.
Not that Piqua boys basketball coach Steve Grasso is complaining about a second consecutive win for the Indians.
“We don’t take any win for granted,” Grasso said. “I was concerned about this game. We had a long layoff once the Troy game was moved since we played. We played well in spurts. But, we have to play much better against Troy Christian if we want to win.”
Lehman Catholic coach Tim Gleason couldn’t fault the effort of his kids.
“I thought we played great defense,” Gleason said about a zone that seemed to bother Piqua all night. “We just didn’t make any shots. That has been the story so far. This has been a really tough stretch. The kids did a great job of battling. I really feel like if we make any kind of shots, we would have had a win tonight.”
While Piqua didn’t always look good against the Cavaliers zone, Piqua was able to open a 27-13 lead midway through the second quarter.
“We did play well in spurts,” Grasso said. “I really can’t explain the lackadaisical effort or why we just stood around against the zone. We had prepared for it. I know our kids compete a lot harder in practice every day than they did tonight.”
Ben Schmiesing scored 12 of his 15 points in the opening half for Piqua, who led 31-22 at the break. He also had 10 of his 17 points in the opening half.
“I thought we did a really bad job of keeping (Ben) Schmiesing off the boards in the opening half,” Gleason said. “That is one of the things we focused on in the second half.”
One player who was able to attack the zone effectively for easy shots was Devon Brown.
The 5-foot-10 guard who can jump out of the gym, was 10-for-15 from the floor in scoring a game-high 23 points.
“He was able to get inside the zone,” Grasso said. “And that’s how you beat it. He did a great job of using his athletic ability.”
Qurri Tucker added 12 points and Hayden Schrubb was close to a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds.
“There athleticism was impressive,” Gleason said. “But, that is what you expect from a school like Piqua. He (Devon Brown) is really tough to stop going to the basket. He is so athletic. The whole team is.”
Piqua, who led 15-8, 31-22 and 49-35 at the quarter breaks, could never quite shake the Cavaliers, who got as close as eight in the closing minutes.
Preston Rodgers scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half, constantly keeping the Cavaliers in striking distance — and he also grabbed five rebounds.
“He (Preston Rodgers) hit a lot of big shots,” Gleason said. “He hit a number of big shots, which was good to see.”
Brendan O’Leary added nine points, Conor O’Leary scored eight and Eliott Gilardi and Ryan Schmidt both had seven.
Piqua was 26 of 60 from the floor for 43 percent and had its best night of the year from the line, making nine of 14 for 64 percent.
Lehman was 22 of 43 from the floor for 51 percent and five of 15 from the line for 33 percent.
Piqua won the battle of the boards 42-25 and had 12 turnovers to Lehman’s 15.
The JV will kick things off Friday.
Lehman and Troy Christian will play in the consolation game at 2:30 p.m., while Covington and Piqua will play in the championship game at 4 p.m.
The varsity title game will give Piqua a shot at its second B.I.G. Classic title.
“The last one was seven years ago,” Grasso said. “So, we have a chance to go out and do something we haven’t done in awhile. I have coach against (Troy Christian coach) Ray Zawadzki a number of times when I was at Yellow Springs. His kids are fundamentally sound and he does a great job with the program. We are going to have to play much better.”
Which is what both teams are hoping for.
Lehman Catholic (53)
Brendan O’Leary 4-0-9, Bryce Kennedy 2-0-4, Elliott Gilardi 3-1-7, Ryan Schmidt 3-1-7, Conor O’Leary 3-2-8, Preston Rodgers 7-0-17, Logan Richard 0-1-1, John Cianciolo 0-0-0. Totals: 22-5-53.
Nick Rigola 1-0-3, Devon Brown 10-3-23, Hayden Schrubb 4-1-9, Qurri Tucker 5-2-12, Ben Schmiesing 6-3-15, Cory Cottrell 0-0-0, Mick Karn 0-0-0, Trey Richmond 0-0-0, Xian Harrison 0-0-0. Totals: 26-9-62.
Lehman: B. O’Leary, Rodgers (3). Piqua: Rigola.
Score By Quarters
Lehman 8 22 35 53
Piqua 15 31 49 62
Records: Lehman 2-5, Piqua 3-4.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.