By Mike Myers Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Mired in a January losing streak that’s gotten as old as the dreary winter weather and down 10 points to a team his program hadn’t lost to in 15 years, Gene Miiller needed some help at the Hatchet House Saturday night.
So Miiller looked to his bench and found what he needed. And now Hatchet fans can only hope that Mother Nature’s winter goes away as quickly and quietly as did the Pike Central Chargers.
Washington stemmed the bleeding in the second quarter, then dominated the second half as the Hatchets snapped a seven game losing streak and defeated Pike Central 55-38.
Trailing 19-9 after one quarter, Washington (3-10) began to turn things around in the second period. Miiller looked to his bench in the second quarter and got results as the Hatchets outscored Pike Central (4-7) 5-4 to trail 23-14 at the half.
“It’s great for the kids to be able to win one, and they way they did it, the effort they expended was great,” said Miiller. “I was not very happy with our effort in the first quarter. That’s the reason you saw four new guys come in the ballgame.
“I thought that second quarter changed the whole ballgame. G (Austin Ghirardelli) and Connor Brown … they really changed the tempo of the ballgame,” said Miiller. “They got after it defensively, they forced turnovers. We gave up 19 points in the first quarter and four in the second. From then on, the defensive intensity got better.”
While Ghirardelli and Brown helped turn things around on the defensive end in the first half, a host of Hatchets got going on the offensive end in the second half. Washington shot just 5-25 (20 percent) in the first half, but got hot in the third quarter. WHS outscored the Chargers 22-8 in the period, including finishing the quarter with an 11-0 run to take a 36-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
Freshman, Jacob Overton scored 11 of his game high 20 points in the third stanza, while classmate Matthew Stephens added a pair of 3-pointers. The fourth quarter was much of the same, as the Hatchets finished off the Chargers, getting seven points from Stephens and Ghirardelli in the final eight minutes. Overall, Stephens tallied 18 points off the bench for the Hatchets with Ghirardelli adding nine markers.
Colton Garland added six points and Jake Bedwell contributed a basket for two points but led the Hatchets with eight rebounds, including four offensive boards. Brown didn’t score but was a big part of the defensive effort that saw the Hatchets hold PC to 19 points over the final three quarters and force 11 Charger turnovers. Gabe Elliott led Pike Central with 11 points, followed by 11 from Kegan Aldridge.
The Hatchets shot 17-27 (63 percent) and turned the ball over just twice in the second half as the second quarter success on defense spread to the offensive end of the floor after intermission.
“It’s just amazing, when you work harder and you get things going defensively, things start to fall offensively too,” said Miiller. “We shot the ball much better in the second half, we got good shots, we moved the basketball better. It was a completely different ballgame in the second half.”
Miiller praised the two freshman, Overton and Stephens, who were the Hatchets leading scorers on Saturday. Stephens hit a trio of 3-pointers while Overton connected twice from behind the arc, giving the Hatchets some badly needed outside shooting punch.
“Matthew is a good shooter, but he just hasn’t been hitting the outside shot. So it was really good to see him hit that shot because I think he’s one of the better shooters on the team but it just hasn’t been falling for him,” said Miiller. “Overton just keeps getting better and better all the time. We’ve been talking to him about being more aggressive on attacking the basket. I had some really good talks with those two today, so it’s really rewarding to see them come out and play they way they did tonight.”
The Hatchets also claimed the JV contest 51-39. Stephens led the way with 15 points, followed by Brown with nine, Timber Shelton with eight, and Clay Walker with seven.
Washington hosts Boonville on Friday.