By Rob Kiser
Miami Valley Today
PIQUA — The Troy Christian and Covington boys basketball teams had battled adversity all season.
The Eagles had dealt with so much injury and illness, only one player has played in every game.
The Buccaneers had lost seven games by less than five points.
So, when the 18-5 Eagles and 10-13 Buccs played in a Piqua Division IV second-round game, is it any surprise it came down to the final seconds?
And when it did, it was the Eagles’ Brady Clawson making a shot with 1.1 seconds left to give Troy Christian a 51-49 lead and Covington’s desperation shot was off the mark.
Troy Christian advances to play top seed Jackson Center in the district semifinal at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
“I just knew I had to make the shot,” Clawson said. “Connor (Peters) gave me a great pass on the play. So many emotions right now, it feels great.”
In a back-and-forth game, Troy Christian held a 49-43 lead with 2:40 to go.
But Covington’s Jake Hamilton hit a three and Zach Kuntz made one of two free throws to make it 49-47 with 48 seconds to go.
After a five-second call following a Troy Christian timeout at the 37.9 second mark, Hamilton drilled a jumper from just in front of the 3-point line with 20 seconds to go to tie it at 49-49.
“There was no question in my mind our kids were going to battle back,” Covington coach Karl Ratermann said. “These kids have lose eight games by five points or less. They are so resilient. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Troy Christian called timeout with 6.8 seconds to go.
First, Zawadzki had a message for his kids.
“They looked pretty tight,” Zawadzki said. “I said just relax and have fun. This is what it is all about.”
Then, he told them the play.
“We decided to put the ball in our senior point guard’s hands,” Zawadzki said about Peters. “He had three options on the play. To take the shot himself, to kick it out to a shooter or pass it to Brady (Clawson).”
Peters took the in-bounds pass from Chaz Schemmel. As he drove to the basket, Peters had thoughts of shooting himself.
“I look to the shooter and he was covered,” Peters said. “I thought I was going to shoot it, but I saw Brady (Clawson) was open and threw the ball to him. I just knew (during the timeout) we were going to win the game.”
Zawadzki praised the play of Peters.
“Brady (Clawson) did a great job, but what an unselfish play by Connor (Peters),” Zawadzki said. “He chose ‘we over me’. They were face-guarding our shooter and a guy came over to cut Connor off. But, that was Brady’s man and Brady had the presence to step away from help side and get open.”
“You have to give them credit,” he said. “They just made a play at the end of the game.”
Covington had taken a 15-10 lead after one quarter.
But, Troy Christian led 20-19 at halftime and stretched it to 40-36 after three quarters — thanks to three drives to the basket by Lucas Day.
“This game was exactly what I expected from Covington,” Zawadzki said. “They took a lot of what we wanted to do away and we had to keep adjusting our offense. A Karl Ratermann coached team is going to be in the game at the end of the game. There was no question about that. Lucas (Day) is an amazing pitcher. He has already heard from schools like Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
“So, I told him to just hit the mitt. And that worked out for us.”
Clawson led a balanced Troy Christian attack with 14 points and five rebounds.
Isaac Gray scored 11 points, Ben Major had nine points and five rebounds and Day scored seven.
Tyler Jackson and Peters both added five points.
Hamilton and Kleyton Mashino both had 13 points for Covington.
Kuntz had nine points and six rebounds and Kadin Presser also scored nine points.
Troy Christian was 19 of 37 from the floor for 51 percent and 11 of 17 from the line for 65 percent.
Covington was 19 of 45 from the floor for 42 percent and four of eight from the line for 50 percent.
The Eagles won the battle of the boards 21-17 and had 16 turnovers to Covington’s 17.
“There are 204 teams in Ohio that are done,” Zawadzki said. “We will be in the gym practicing tomorrow and working on things (for Saturday). These kids have battled through so much adversity and tonight it paid off.”
With a trip to the district semifinals.
Contact Rob Kiser at [email protected].
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