Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Nate Keiser didn’t miss a shot on Friday, and Unioto didn’t miss its shot to stay atop the conference standings while holding off a talented Piketon team.
Keiser finished 7-for-7 from the floor and led the team in scoring with 17 points. But as good as he was on the offensive end, he made the play of the game on defense with 12.6 seconds left.
With Unioto leading 43-40, Piketon spent just over 40 seconds waiting for an open shot to tie the game. The Shermans’ defense held strong and the Redstreaks were forced to settle for a fadeaway 3 from the top of the arc.
That’s when Keiser deflected a shot attempt, gained possession and sunk two free throws at the other end to put a 45-40 victory on ice.
“We ran our offense through, just looking for my shot,” Keiser said. “I really just hang my hat on the defensive end. Big defensive plays are things I do. Piketon plays really physical and they have shooters. Almost everybody on that team can shoot 3’s. They’re tough to guard.”
Keiser was tough to guard on Friday.
While junior Isaac Little has consistently led the Shermans (12-3, 9-1 SVC) in scoring, he’s been banged up over the past few weeks.
So on Friday, Little had no trouble handing the reins over.
PHOTOS: Images from Unioto’s 45-40 win over Piketon
“I love it. Nate works hard in practice, every single day,” Little said. “He’s earned this. With me being banged up and not being able to carry the same load offensively, [Keiser] makes it super easy and gives me a lot of confidence in the team. It puts me at ease.”
Piketon’s Brody Fuller got the scoring started just 12 seconds into the action, nailing a triple to give the Redstreaks the night’s first lead. Unioto answered with a 3 from Little before the Redstreaks later took a 10-8 lead, thanks to a bucket from Chris Chandler.
But Unioto went on a 4-0 run to end the quarter, taking a 12-10 edge into the second.
The Redstreaks (7-9, 4-5 SVC) took a 13-12 advantage when Tyree Harris dialed long distance with 6:12 left before halftime. Later, Chandler made it a 20-16 game at the 2:31 mark with a sequence that featured a bucket and two free throws. Keiser then hit a jumper, cutting the lead to 20-18 at the break.
The third quarter featured five lead changes.
Keiser hit a 3 with 2:19 left to put Unioto ahead 29-27. After Fuller tied the game, Josh Lambert hit two free throws and Keiser nailed a mid-range jumper, making it 33-29 heading into the fourth.
The Redstreaks weren’t done yet, however. With 4:53 left, Levi Gullion put Piketon ahead 37-36 with a pair of free throws. Later, with 3:24 remaining, Fuller hit a 3 to make it a 40-38 lead.
But that’s when the Shermans embarked on a 7-0 run to end the game, one that featured Keiser’s game-sealing defensive play and a bucket from Little at the 1:59 mark to put Unioto ahead for good.
“Every game that Piketon comes out, they’re going to give you their best game,” Little said. “They’re a lot like us. They hang their hats on the defensive end and rebounding. You have to earn the win. That’s a tough team. This is a good win.”
Keiser finished with 17 points and shot 3-for-3 inside the arc, 2-for-2 behind it and 5-for-5 at the free throw line. Little had 15 points, three assists and two steals, and Reece Wheeler tallied five points and a team-high seven rebounds.
For Piketon, Fuller led the team with 11 points while Chandler added eight points and eight rebounds. Gullion also had a decent night, posting seven points, five boards and two assists.
The Shermans are back in action Saturday evening, hosting Circleville, while the Redstreaks will try and bounce back on Friday, hosting Southeastern.
“We just have to go into every game with a championship mindset,” Keiser said. “It’s [like] a tournament game. We have to play hard.”
Piketon: 10-10-9-11 — 40
Unioto: 12-6-15-12 — 45
Piketon: 13-34 FG, 8-9 FT, 6-14 3 pt., 21 rebounds (Chandler 8), 17 turnovers, 5 assists (Gullion 2). Scoring: Fuller 11, Chandler 8, Gullion 7, Harris 6, Swayne 4, Potts 2, Nichols 2.
Unioto: 14-31 FG, 12-18 FT, 5-10 3 pt., 20 rebounds (Wheeler 7), 14 turnovers, 9 assists (Little 3, Cam. DeBord 3). Scoring: Keiser 17, Little 15, Wheeler 5, Car. DeBord 2, Cam. DeBord 2, Jo. Lambert 2, Markko 1, Greenwalt 1.