Basketball

Orrville fends off late Triway surge to open PAC play

Photo credit: Rod Dilyard Photography

The Triway Titan boys basketball team packed their bags and traveled across the county to play arch-rival Orrville on Friday, Dec. 22 in Bob Knight Gymnasium on Steve Smith Court for an early Principals Athletic Conference match-up. Despite a late fourth-quarter rally by the Titans, the Red Riders were left standing with the 57-54 victory.

Triway (3-2) entered the game looking to extend a two-game winning streak and were coming fresh off of a 23-point conference route of Manchester the previous week, where senior forward Gabe Walker became the 10th Titan in program history to score over 1,000 career points. Orrville (2-3) was looking for a second win after struggling to find their footing so far this season.

The Red Riders are going through a bit of a youth movement this season, led by their sole senior in the post, Seth Hill, and are dressing six underclassmen. Orrville entered the game averaging 47 points per game and allowing 60 ppg. Meanwhile Triway’s senior-laden squad (Braden Biggs, Bo Flinner, Jordan Stokes and Gabe Walker) had averaged 59 ppg while giving up 48.5 ppg.

The Red Riders controlled the game early with quick ball movement and some stingy defense. In the opening quarter, junior guard Logan Domer helped get the Riders started with five points, but everyone wearing a home jersey had a hand in the opening action. Hill chipped in four while holding Triway’s Walker in check to give Orrville the early 12-7 lead. Senior guard Bo Flinner led Triway in the first quarter with three points.

Orrville head coach Sly Slaughter was pleased with the tone set by his lone senior. “Seth Hill, the way he played tonight was great, and really his effort all year long has been nice. Even in games where we didn’t play as well as maybe we could as a team, Seth has stepped up as a senior to lead our young guys and is doing a fabulous job for us.”

The Orrville defense continued to frustrate Walker, holding him to two first-half points, but Triway’s firm of Biggs & Biggs went to work in the second quarter and made the Riders pay. Senior Braden Biggs hustled his way to seemingly every loose ball and super sophomore Bryce Biggs caught fire from behind the arc, draining three triples to shoot the Titans back into the game.

By halftime this game was shaping up to be another barn-burning classic between these two rival schools with the score all knotted up at 20-20. Triway needed to find a way to get Walker going on the offensive end of the floor or have one of their seniors step up to lead them to a potential victory. Meanwhile Orrville has struggled this season in the third quarter, which can happen with inexperienced teams, and the Red Riders needed to come out of the locker room aggressive and protect the ball if they were going to stay in this game.

Slaughter felt his team got off to a nice start. “We did a nice job of moving the basketball on offense to start the game. We spread the floor well. Different guys had a hand in scoring, which made us hard to defend. We’ve been preaching all year that everyone needs to work hard on defense. On offense we need to share the basketball, so it was nice to see some of that come to fruition in the first half.”

One of the many things Slaughter liked seeing from his young squad on this night was the way his Red Riders answered the bell in the third quarter. “The first and the third quarters have been killing us all year. We talked all week about coming out and being ready to start the game. We decided to switch up our warm-up routine, get our guys a better chance to work up a sweat, and it seemed to get us started on the right foot tonight. At halftime our goals were to protect the ball in the third quarter, stay aggressive and to get Triway to call the first timeout.”

A one-handed thundering dunk by Hill, a three-point play (the old-fashioned way) on offense to go with a charge taken on defense by junior Ben Summers, and back-to-back three-bombs by sophomore R’Kai Robinson and junior Cayden McDanial had the Red Riders rolling with the Titans rocked back on their heels, but Triway refused to give up. Walker started to get going for the purple and white, scoring four in the quarter. He was supported by a couple of three-pointers from Bryce Biggs and Matt Falkenberg and another nice hustle play by Braden Biggs near the end of the stanza to rebound a Walker miss and hit two free throws, making it only a three-point Triway deficit, but it didn’t last long.

Orrville’s McDaniel calmly drained this buzzer-beater to end the third quarter and extend the Red Rider lead to six, 39-33.

Triway didn’t let a shot like that phase them as they entered the fourth quarter of play. In fact it seemed to energize the Titans. Their aggressive play got them back in the game and in position to try and squeak out a road victory. Braden Biggs continued to attack with his hustle on both ends of the floor.

Walker finished the closing quarter scoring seven of his team-high 13 points including a big three to continue the Titan’s momentum and slimming the deficit.

A Jordan Sparks lay-in with under a minute to go in the game made it only a three-point Triway deficit, 54-51, with 33 seconds remaining.

Despite the Red Riders catching a case of the jitters with the ball in the fourth quarter, Orrville hit 7-of-9 foul shots down the stretch to seal the victory and prevent the Titan bid for a come-from-behind win.

Slaughter was pleased to see his team close out a tough conference win. “Defensively we did a good job of getting after them and pressuring the basketball. We wanted to make them work for everything. Offensively we wanted to push the ball in transition. Playing this way sometimes is not going to result in the perfect game. We have to be ready to deal with the potential for some extra turnovers and fouls. We managed to avoid getting into foul trouble the first half, and I thought we did a good job overall. I am most happy with the way we defended. Our kids responded well. They followed the game plan, and that’s important for a young team. When we can give them a game plan, they carry it out, and it turns into a win. Now they start believing some of the things we are saying to them. Hopefully it will carry on through the next couple of games. We are facing a very tough Buckeye team tomorrow afternoon. We don’t have much time to savor this one.”

Robinson led Orrville with 17 points, scoring eight of them in the third quarter. Ben Underwood chipped in nine points, Summers finished with nine points after going 5-of-7 from the charity stripe, Hill finished with six points and had a nice night defensively, McDaniel ended up with six points, and Domer had five.

For Triway, the Titans were led by Walker, who had a team-high 13 points. Bryce Biggs finished with 12 points, Braden Biggs and his high motor kept Triway in the game with a scrappy 10 points, and Titan big man Jordan Stokes finished with nine.

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