McClain holds on to defeat Bearcats
McClain junior Mikah Parks puts up a shot over Paint Valley's Logan Laug. (HCP Photos/Jim Jones)
The McClain Tigers and Paint Valley Bearcats opened the season Friday night in Greenfield and gave the huge crowd on hand a good old-fashioned barnburner, with McClain winning a nail-biter, 42-41.
It was an intensely played game from start to finish, with both teams playing aggressive man-to-man full-court defense. There were a lot of miscues by both teams, caused partly by some first-game jitters, but mostly because of some superb defense by both teams.
Offense was at a minimum the entire game and especially in the opening quarter that the Bearcats won, 7-5.
Jordan Bell connected on a long three for McClain, and Braylon Robertson drilled one for Paint Valley in the frame.
The second period saw both teams go on little spurts with Paint Valley leading early and McClain at the middle before the Bearcats grabbed the lead at the half 22-21 on a shot by Jase Rinehart that went in just before the horn sounded.
The second period started with Carson Free drilling a long three, giving the Bearcats a 10-5 advantage, but Zane Adams hit a shot for McClain followed by Bell’s second three of the game and the score was tied 10-10 at the 5:30 mark.
Mikah Parks then drained a long trifecta, and suddenly the Tigers led 12-10. That lead was extended moments later after another bucket by Adams and an offensive stick-back inside by Andrew Potts, and McClain enjoyed their biggest lead of the half 16-11 with just under two minutes left. But Paint Vally quickly regrouped and closed out the period with a little 11-5 run and was able to take the slim 22-21 halftime advantage.
The third quarter saw both teams trade baskets with neither team having more than a four-point lead. Just when it looked like the Tigers would have their first lead at the end of a quarter after Bell scored five straight points to give McClain a 32-31 advantage, Free answered just before the third-period buzzer with an old-fashioned 3-point play to give Paint Valley the lead, 34-32 heading to the fourth.
Robertson opened the final quarter with his second long three of the game, pushing the Bearcat lead to 37-32, but Parks and Bell hit back-to-back shots for McClain, cutting the lead back to one at 37-36 with six minutes remaining.
Potts then got a big stick-back bucket inside moments later, giving the Tigers a 38-37 advantage at the four-minute mark.
Both teams turned the ball over on their next offensive possession until Michael Noszka Jr. hit the biggest shot of the game, a long three with three minutes remaining, extending McClain’s lead to four points 41-37.
Defensive pressure down the stretch saw numerous miscues by both teams, but the Tigers still led 41-37 with just under a minute to play when Free scored inside for Paint Valley to cut the lead to two points 41-39 with 50 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Bearcats were forced to foul, and Noszka, who is just a freshman, hit a free throw to give McClain a slim 42-39 lead with 20 seconds left on the clock. Free answered again for the Bearcats with another nice move inside, and suddenly it was 42-41 McClain.
Paint Valley fouled again, and the Tigers missed on a pair of free throws, and the Bearcats quickly moved the ball down the floor but missed a layup with 2.5 seconds still showing on the game clock.
McClain then was able to get the ball inbounds and run out the clock, holding on for the hard-earned and physical 42-41 season-opening win.
McClain’s first-year head coach Michael Noszka spoke after the game about his team’s gritty season opening victory.
“I thought our kids won this game with toughness and effort and almost lost the game because of lack of poise at the end,” Noszka said. “This is just Ohio basketball; it was physical, and both teams played really hard.
“We got some really good leadership from Andrew Potts tonight. He got a bunch of steals for us, and I thought our kids shared the ball, played together and guarded hard, and those are things we have to do.
“I thought we were getting open shots there in the fourth quarter but just weren’t making them,” Noszka continued. “We just needed one or two to go in, and we did get one big one there that put us up four.
“After we finally got that lead in the fourth, we almost gave it up at the end, so we’re going to have to come in tomorrow and look at the tape because I know we had a lot of mistakes out there, not to mention, we’ve got to shoot our foul shots better.”
McClain was just 2-of-12 from the free-throw line for a dismal 16 percent for the game.
“We’ve only had 17 practices, and we haven’t been able to work on everything, but it’s always a lot easier to get better after a win, and at the end of the day there’s no substitute for getting wins,” Noszka said.
Jordan Bell, a sophomore, led McClain with 14 points, which included two 3-pointers, followed by junior Mikah Parks, who also hit double-figure scoring with 11.
Rounding out the scoring for the Tigers were Andrew Potts 8, Michael Noszka Jr. 4, Zane Adams 4 and Owen Sykes 2.
Paint Valley was led in scoring by junior Carson Free with 14 points followed closely by junior Braylon Robertson with 13. The Bearcats converted 6-of-10 foul shots for 60 percent.
McClain’s next game is Tuesday, Dec. 5 when they host Frontier Athletic Conference opponent Jackson.