Columbiana's underclassmen made a big impact despite the 64-60 defeat.
By TODD BELL
HANOVERTON -- The United Local High basketball team survived a scare from the youthful Columbiana Clippers Friday to remain a game out of first place in the Tri-County League with a 64-60 win.
Toward the end of the second quarter, United (12-5, 9-3) held a 31-19 advantage, and it appeared the Eagles were well on their way to an easy win.
But Columbiana (7-11, 4-8) managed to work its way back into the game.
By the early stages of the fourth quarter, the Clippers had taken a 49-48 lead on two free throws by freshman Jared Patton.
Confidence: "Right at halftime we felt we were in control of the tempo, there was no panic in the locker room and we just made sure we stayed with the game plan all the way through," Columbiana coach Jeff Hammond said.
Seven turnovers and missed shots plagued United in the third quarter and early in the fourth, allowing Columbiana back in the contest.
"Our ball movement and player movement in the second half was not good," United coach Herman Miller said. "They did a good job of getting in the passing lanes and taking some of the things we were doing in the first half away."
The Eagles were able to regroup immediately after they had lost the lead, scoring eight straight points, six of which came off of Columbiana turnovers.
But even up 61-53 with just over three minutes remaining, Columbiana mounted one more charge. Patton hit two free throws and knocked down a 3-pointer with a 1 minute, 58 seconds left to cut the gap to three.
Then, 30 seconds later, sophomore Ryan Carletti scored to make it 61-60. But that would be as close as the Clippers would get.
Moving on: With his team coming off a thrilling win over Sebring on Tuesday, Miller wasn't pleased with his team's play at times.
"I hate to hear coaches blame it on coming off a big win with an emotional letdown," Miller said. "I didn't think we practiced that way, and I didn't think that was our attitude coming into it.
"Tonight was not consistent," he said. "We looked like the team we can be in spurts, and then we looked like anything you wouldn't want to be in other spurts."
Kurt Williams scored 19 points to lead Columbiana in scoring. But underclassmen scored more than half of the Clippers points.
"Their young kids weren't afraid," Miller said. "It wasn't their upperclassmen that made the difference, it was their sophomores and freshmen."
For United, it was the duo of senior Devan Peters and junior Grant Cope that made the difference for the Eagles. Peters scored a game-high 21 points, while Cope scored 20 and added seven rebounds.
"They've done a nice job and it's not just on the offense end," Miller said. "It's rebounding all the way around and defensively."
Finding the positives: Columbiana has had some tough losses the second half of the season, and though the team is somewhat frustrated, Hammond was pleased with his team's effort in spite of the loss.
"This was very encouraging; we're a young team and we're really excited about the future here, and we're starting to talk tournament," Hammond said. "If we can put together games like we're putting together, we're getting excited about playing in Struthers."