By Rob Kiser
No one will be happier than the Stebbins boys basketball team to see Ben Schmiesing turn in his Piqua basketball uniform for the final time at the end of the season.
After scoring a career high 35 points — which he matched earlier this season — to lead Piqua to a road win at Stebbins last year, Schmiesing stood at the foul line with 2.6 seconds left Saturday night and Piqua trailing Stebbins 72-71 in GWOC American action.
And he proved to be Stebbins’ kryptonite once again, calmly both free throws to give Piqua a 73-72 win in GWOC American action.
Which is a story in itself.
Two weeks ago, Schmiesing was hovering around 30 percent free throw shooting for the year.
“Early in the season, even I wouldn’t have believed I would make those,” Schmiesing said with a smile. “I would have thought we were going to overtime — I sure wouldn’t have thought we were winning the game.”
But, Piqua coach Steve Grasso has taken the patient approach.
“There are two ways you can approach it,” Grasso said. “You can change something — or you can just let them work through it. And I decided to let Ben work through it.”
And something has clicked.
After making 6-for-8 Tuesday against Fairborn and Friday against Troy, he made the two that mattered most Saturday.
“I have been working really hard on it an practice and I think I have found something,” Schmiesing said.
Not, that he wasn’t nervous on the first one.
“The first one was the hardest one,” Schmiesing said. “You have to make that one. Once that one went in, there wasn’t near as much pressure.”
And Stebbins taking a timeout before the second one did nothing to change Schmiesing dropping the dagger and giving Piqua the lead.
Stebbins desperation shot was off the mark as Piqua improved to 7-9 overall and 4-5 in the GWOC American play and Stebbins dropped to 8-9 and 4-6.
“That just shows you the kind of competitor Ben (Schmiesing) is,” Grasso said. “He is a clutch player. You see him do things like that all the time.”
For the better part of three quarters, Piqua had been in control of the game, leading 44-35 at halftime and 62-53 after three quarters.
And a big part of that was Devon Brown using athletic moves to slice through the Stebbins defense for a career-high 28 points.
“Devon had some family here — his father was here from New York,” Grasso said. “I am sure that meant a lot to him.”
“My father is going to be here for some games,” Brown said. “It means a lot — to have a game like that in front of my family.”
But, the fourth quarter was a struggle for Piqua.
A big part of that was Stebbins defense stepping up.
After having one turnover in the first half, Piqua had 11 in the final two quarters — most of them coming in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t feel like we were missing shots,” Grasso said. “I thought it was more having lazy turnovers (and not having a chance to shoot).”
Stebbins took its first lead since early in the second quarter with less than three minutes remaining.
Chris Davis went around the Piqua box-out attempt on a missed free throw and scored to put the visiting Indians up 67-66.
But, Schmiesing immediately answered with a 3-point play to put Piqua in front 69-67 with 1:45 remaining.
Davis answered with a three from the corner to put Stebbins up 70-69.
After a jump ball with 18.6 seconds to go gave the ball back to Stebbins with a 72-71 lead, Piqua fouled with 15. seconds to go.
Stebbins missed the front end of the one-and-one and Qurri Tucker grabbed the long rebound.
After Piqua missed on a drive to the basket, Schmiesing grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled.
And as they say, the rest is history.
“To be able to do something to win the game for my teammates, that feels pretty good,” Schmiesing said. “We have won two close games this week. That shows we can be special and are getting in a groove right now.”
Schmiesing complimented Brown with a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Mick Karn hit some big threes and finished with 11 points, Tucker scored seven and Nick Rigola added six.
Jonathan Mpanzu had a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds for Stebbins.
Davis scored 15 points, Ty Rutledge netted 14 and Dom Martin added eight points and seven rebounds before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.
Piqua was 30 of 57 from the floor for 53 percent and eight of 12 from the line for 67 percent.
Stebbins was 33 of 67 from the floor for 49 percent and five of 12 from the line for 42 percent.
Stebbins won the battle of the boards 32-23 and had 11 turnovers to Piqua’s 12.
Vandalia-Butler visits Tuesday — another team Schmiesing has a history with, stripping and recovering a fumble in the final two minutes to seal a win in football this fall.
“There is nobody I would rather have on the line in that situation,” Grasso said.
Which is probably not something you would have heard earlier this season.
Jalen Tolbert 3-0-6, Dom Martin 4-0-8, Jonathan Mpanzu 11-1-23, Michael Mayo 0-0-0, Jamie Bullock 2-0-4, Ty Rutledge 6-2-14, Chris Davis 6-2-15, Murad Ilyasov 0-0-0, Dat Vo 1-0-2. Totals: 33-5-72.
Nick Rigola 3-0-6, Devon Brown 11-5-28, Hayden Schrubb 0-0-0, Qurri Tucker 3-0-7, Ben Schmiesing 9-3-21, Mick Karn 4-0-11, Trey Richmond 0-0-0, Cory Cotrell 0-0-0. Totals: 30-8-73.
3-point field goals — Stebbins: Davis. Piqua: Brown, Tucker, Karn (3).
Score By Quarters
Stebbins 21 35 53 72
Piqua 18 44 62 73
Records: Stebbins 8-9 (4-6), Piqua 7-9 (4-5).