By Rob Kiser
Piqua Daily Call
CASSTOWN — Miami East boys basketball team was oh,so close to opening the season with a win over Northwestern in Justin Roeth’s first game as varsity coach.
But a thriller turned to heartbreak in the final four seconds, as Northwestern walked off with a 50-49 victory in non-conference action.
“It is not the result we wanted tonight,” Roeth said afterwards. “First game of the season with a new coach. But, we will learn from this.”
Miami East was holding a 49-48 lead when Northwestern threw the ball away with six seconds to go and it looked like East would win a thriller.
But Northwestern’s Garrett Embry intercepted the inbound pass by East near midcourt. Embry drove the lane and hit a shot at the buzzer to give the Warriors the victory.
“That pass (on the inbound) was one of those passes you want back as soon as you let it go,” Roeth said. “But, you can’t get it back.”
The shot erased an amazing comeback by a gutty Miami East team which had trailed most of the game.
After trailing much of the first quarter, Northwestern used a 9-0 run to take a 20-15 lead at the first break.
The Warriors were up 33-25 at halftime and still led 40-29 late in the third quarter.
As he did all night, Brendon Bertsch hit a three to get the Vikings within 40-32 going to the final eight minutes.
“Brendon has that ability,” Roeth said. “He made a lot of big shots. He can get to the basket or hit from the perimeter.”
That shot sparked an 11-0 Viking run.
Aaron Lawrence hit one of two free throws, Bertsch had two more baskets and a three by Tyler Stapleton tied the game a 40 with 4:55 remaining, bringing the home crowd to life.
“Tyler (Stapleton) is one of those seniors who is just looking for a chance and he can hit a jumper when he gets his feet set,” Roeth said.
Korbin Spencer hit one of two free throws for the Warriors and Taliek Dennis followed with a basket for Northwestern to put the Warriors up 44-40.
Bertsch had another basket and Sam Zapadka followed with a 3-pointer to give Miami East a 45-44 lead with 2:13 remaining.
Then, Zapadka had a steal and Stapleton had a put back to put the Vikings up 47-44 with 1:53 remaining.
But, the roller coaster ride would continue.
Dennis tied it with a 3 and added a free throw with 26 seconds to go to put Northwestern up 48-47.
Then, Zapadka was fouled driving the lane with 18.5 seconds to go.
Not exactly good news, considering Miami East was 2-for-16 from the line up to that point.
“The free throw shooting, it was just bad,” Roeth said.
But, Zapadka calmly sank both free throws to put Miami East up 49-48.
“That was clutch by Sam (Zapadka),” Roeth said. “It just shows you he had his head where it needs to be.”
The two teams exchanged turnovers before the heartbreaking finish.
Bertsch led East with 18 points, while Zapadka scored 11 and Stapleton added eight.
Dennis paced Northwestern with 20 and Matthew Hart added 13 points.
“A lot of the stats were good for us,” Roeth said. “We only had five turnovers. There is definitely a lot we can build off from this game.”
And the Vikings will do exactly that Friday, when they travel to Franklin Monroe for the Cross County Conference opener.
Contact Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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