TROY — If the action at the Eagles Nest Tuesday night was any indication, Miami County basketball fans should be in for some real fun for the next few years.
Miami East and Troy Christian battled for 32 minutes before Troy Christian came away with a 44-43 victory.
The two teams will be in the Three Rivers Conference next year — and there was a glimpse of the future on display.
Miami East is missing freshman double figure scorer Wes Enis and both teams started two freshman and a sophomore — and it was two Troy Christian freshman making big plays down the stretch.
“The future of Miami County basketball is bright,” Troy Christian coach Ray Zawadzki Jr. said. “We will be conference opponents starting next year — I think this is going to be a great rivalry for the next three years at least. Miami East is a young team and he (coach Justin Roeth) does a great job.”
He would get no argument from Roeth about the rivalry.
“We just knew coming in here it was going to be a battle,” Roeth said. “We are both going to be in the same conference next year. This is going to be a really good rivalry.”
Both teams are now 12-8 on the season.
After playing behind for almost the entire first three quarters — Noah King’s putback at the buzzer game Miami East its first lead at 34-33 heading to the fourth quarter — Sam Zapadka hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Jacob Roeth hit two free throws to erase a 39-34 deficit and give the Vikings a 43-39 lead with 1:33 to go.
“It took almost until the fourth quarter to get the lead,” Roeth said. “Sam (Zapadka) did a great job creating space on the 3-pointers and Jacob (Roeth) hit the two free throws.”
The Eagles were in danger of letting a third straight fourth quarter lead get away.
“You hit the hammer on the head there,” Zawadzki said. “We were coming off three straight losses and it had been a long time around here since we lost three straight.”
That’s when freshman Parker Penrod and Alex Free stepped up for the Eagles.
Penrod hit a 3-pointer with 1:15 on the clock to cut East’s lead to 43-42.
“I am really comfortable on the left side,” Penrod said. “So, when I got the ball, there I was pretty confident I would make it.”
So was Zawadzki.
“I called the timeout (to stop the clock) when the ball left his hand,” he said with a laugh. “Parker (Penrod) has been making those shots all year.”
After an East five second call with 35.5 seconds left on an inbounds under the basket, Troy Christian got the ball back.
After an Troy Christian timeout, Free caught the ball near the foul line, drive and hit a short jumper with 17 seconds to go to give the Eagles and 44-43 lead.
“That was a new play nobody had seen,” Zawadzki said.
And Free made the right decision.
“There was an option to kick it out to Parker (Penrod), but his man stayed on him,” Free said. “We called the play in the huddle.”
The drama wasn’t over.
Miami East was fouled with four seconds to go, but missed both free throws.
The rebound went out of bounds to East with 2.5 seconds left.
The Vikings got a close look at the basket, but Penrod was able to block the shot and time ran out.
“I just saw him going up and knew I needed to get a hand on it,” Penrod said.
Roeth said the plays at the end weren’t the difference.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” he said. “It didn’t come down to the last couple plays. We were five of 12 from the line. That eventually came back to haunt us.”
Penrod led a balanced Troy Christian attack with 11 points and four assists, while Zach King had eight points and two blocked shots.
Freshman Michael Werkmeister scored eight points and Chas Schemmel had seven rebounds and four assists.
Zapadka led Miami East with 14 points.
Roeth scored 11 points and Nick Prince added nine points, while both players dished out five assists.
Noah King added seven points and seven rebounds.
Troy Christian was 16 of 34 from the floor for 47 percent, including seven of 13 on 3-point attempts for 53 percent. The Eagles converted five of nine free throws for 55 percent.
Miami East was 14 of 36 from the floor for 38 percent, including 10 of 17 from 3-point range for 58 percent.
The Vikings made five of 12 free throws for 41 percent.
Troy Christian won the battle of the boards 23-15, but had 16 turnovers to Miami East’s 10.
“We had been working in practice on playing for 32 minutes,” Free said. “This was a huge win for us.”
On a night when the future of both programs shined brightly.