Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — From start to finish Monday night, Unioto didn’t let its foot off the gas pedal.
The Shermans used a 14-2 run to grab an early lead and continued their assault on the rims throughout all 32 minutes.
The result was a 70-39 season-opening drubbing of Miami Trace in non-league action, a win that sets the standard of how Unioto (1-0) wants to play throughout its 2019-20 schedule.
“There’s a saying and I know it’s cliche but when you never lose, you only learn. When you lose 13 times last year, you adopt that saying,” Unioto coach Matt Hoops said. “We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and have had a look in the mirror moment. But a lot of that is solved by simply being a year older. We know what to expect going into a varsity game now. You saw that tonight from the tip.”
As Hoops mentioned, the Shermans are coming off a year where they suffered 13 losses … after losing just 12 games in total over the four previous seasons.
PHOTOS: Images from Unioto’s season-opening win over Miami Trace
After last year’s finish, many have started to doubt the Shermans’ ability to get back to the level they were playing at during that four-year run.
But Monday’s win was the first step to silencing the critics.
“We weren’t in this position many times last year,” guard Isaac Little said. “We came in last year unsure of where we were. We listened to [what] people [were saying] outside of the team too much. This year, people have already started to doubt us. We’re not going to take that.”
There’s no doubting Little’s abilities in all facets of the game. The junior was magnificent in the win, scoring a game-high 27 points alongside eight rebounds and five assists.
He was the engine to a well-oiled machine.
“We knew coming into the game that [Miami Trace] had some size and that can make up for lack of skill sometimes,” Little said. “Our coaches prepared us all week really well and we knew that if we followed along with our game plan, we’d come out on top like we did.”
Little spearheaded the fast start with 11 first quarter points while Unioto’s defense forced six early turnovers to get in transition. That led to both easy buckets and a 22-5 lead after the first quarter.
The Panthers (1-2) played better in the second, outscoring Unioto 10-8. But after taking a 30-15 lead into the break, the Shermans picked up where they left off, winning the second half 40-24 and the game by a 31-point margin.
“Miami Trace is well-coached,” Hoops said. “You have to prepare well when you’re playing against them. They’re not afraid to get out of their game plan to make you feel uncomfortable and they did that at times. But you could see that our guys were comfortable with the ball in their hands and we had the ability to take what we’ve learned in practice into the game.”
Josh Lambert followed Little’s final stat line with 12 points and three assists while Reece Wheeler added seven points and nine boards. Evan Park also helped out, totaling seven points and four rebounds while Nate Keiser had six points, two rebounds and three assists.
Miami Trace was led statistically by Andrew Guthrie, who had 10 points six rebounds. Ethan Steele followed with four points and five boards while Cameron Moore finished with nine points.
The Shermans are back in action Friday night, hosting Logan, while the Panthers look to bounce back the same night against Jackson in FAC action.
“Our attitudes have changed,” Lambert said. “We’re starting to take defense more seriously than we did last year. We’re playing well together and we have something to prove for sure.”
Miami Trace: 5-10-14-10 — 39
Unioto: 22-8-22-18 — 70
Miami Trace: 15-42 FG, 5-10 FT, 3-14 3pt., 27 rebounds (Guthrie 6), 18 turnovers, 6 assists (Conn 3). Scoring: Guthrie 10, Moore 9, Rodgers 6, Steele 4, Terry 4, Little 2, Bernard 2, Conn 2.
Unioto: 28-53 FG, 7-13 FT, 7-19 3pt., 35 rebounds (Wheeler 9), 16 turnovers, 16 assists (Little 5). Scoring: Little 27, Jo. Lambert 12, Wheeler 7, Park 7, Keiser 6, Car. DeBord 4, Cam. DeBord 3, Je. Lambert 2, Markko 2.