Karlee Renner
John Bruce

John Bruce

Shermans fight back to earn hard-fought, season-opening win over McClain

Senior Avery Miller had 27 points to lead Unioto to a win.

John Bruce, Staff Writer

GREENFIELD — Down by one in their season opener, the Unioto Shermans turned to their leader. And Avery Miller did not disappoint.

Unioto’s Avery Miller scored 27 points in the Shermans’ season-opening win over McClain.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

The senior scored the game’s final six points, and ended with a game-high 27, to lead the Tanks to a 61-56 victory over McClain on Saturday. 

In a nip-and-tuck matchup between two of the top programs in the Southeast District, having an experienced senior leader was what the Shermans (1-0) needed to get the deciding nod.

“[Miller] knows that, with the makeup of our team, she’s going to have to be assertive offensively,” Unioto coach Jeff Miller said. “She’s got several years of experience under her belt but that role has changed every year for her. Today, we ran her a lot at [point guard]. But when the situation came, she knew she had to attack the basket and she did a great job of it.”

The chilly weather outside seemed to carry over into the gymnasium to begin the first half.

The Tigers (0-1) were especially cold shooting, starting out 1-for-15 from the floor, with only a triple from sophomore Kaitlyn Jett in the first quarter on the board. 

However, McClain finished the first half by making five of their final six shot attempts. 

The Shermans came into the game without the services of sophomore point guard Alexis Book, which forced Miller and guard Amaris Betts into distributary roles in the early going, slowing the Tanks’ scoring punch. 

Entering the final minute of the first half, Betts had scored two points, while Miller hadn’t yet entered the scoring column. But with back-to-back hard-nosed drives to the basket and a pair of free throws, Miller pushed her scoring total to six to tie the game at 24-24 heading into halftime.

“I think this shows the maturity we have from last year,” Jeff Miller said. “There was never a time where we rolled over. We just kept clawing and scratching to try and keep ourselves in the game. That shows a lot about our maturity. That could be the change from last year to this year.”

After McClain’s Iva Easter and Payton Pryor led the Tigers with six points each in the first half, the Tigers came out of the locker rooms in a quick flurry.

PHOTOS: Images from Unioto’s win over McClain

Easter scored inside before Pryor knocked down a 3, forcing a timeout from Unioto to attempt to quell the Tigers’ momentum. Unioto’s Avery Miller then knocked down a 3, along with three free throws, making it twelve consecutive points for the senior before McClain’s Lily Barnes and senior Evelyn Vanzant answered, putting the Tigers in front at 38-31 midway through the third. 

That’s when the Shermans started to put emphasis on the defensive end to get back into the game. 

Senior Karlee Renner, alongside Addison Mohan, Jozie Zickafoose and Betts, caused havoc on the Tigers’ backcourt, causing repeated turnovers that led to a 7-0 run to tie the game at 38-38.

Pryor and Jett then each knocked down jump shots to push the Tigers back in front at 42-39 in the waning seconds of the third.

The Shermans had the final possession of the quarter and the Tigers looked to force the ball out of Miller’s hands. But the senior found Renner on the left wing, where the sharpshooter calmly drilled a triple to end the quarter and send the game into the final frame tied at 42-42. 

Unioto continued to make big shots to start the fourth with Betts and Carissa Wheeler knocking down triples on their first two possessions of the quarter before Miller pulled up on a fastbreak for another 3 and a 53-48 lead with four minutes to play. 

“As a coach, you try to instill confidence in those kids that when they catch it, no matter the situation is, they feel comfortable enough to take the shot and bury it,” Jeff Miller said. “Those shots coming from four different kids in that stretch was huge for us.”

The Tigers answered behind Pryor, Easter and Barnes to retake the lead at 56-55 with just over a minute to play. 

That’s when Miller decided it was her time to win the game. 

Miller went coast-to-coast to take a 57-56 lead with under a minute to play and, following a steal from Renner, Miller drove to the bucket, drawed a foul and converted both shots from the line. 

A heads up play by Mohan then forced a costly turnover for the Tigers with time running down. And, in closing time, the Shermans got the ball to their senior leader as Miller knocked down free throws to preserve the victory.

Miller led all scorers with her 27 points to go alongside 10 rebounds and four assists. Betts added nine points, Mohan had eight points, Renner ended with seven and Uhrig had five points and six boards.

Pryor led the Tigers with 15 points and seven rebounds, Easter added 14 points, Barnes had 13 and Madi Sykes chipped in with a team-high 12 rebounds.

Unioto returns to action on Tuesday when it hosts Washington while McClain hosts Jamestown Greeneview on Wednesday.


Unioto: 8-16-18-19 — 61

McClain: 6-18-18-14 — 56

Unioto: 17-47 FG, 20-28 FT, 7-16 3pt., 30 rebounds (Miller 10), 24 turnovers, 12 assists (Miller 4). Scoring: Miller 27, Betts 9, Mohan 8, Renner 7, Uhrig 5, Wheeler 3, Himes 2.

McClain: 15-45 FG, 21-34 FT, 5-11 3pt., 34 rebounds (Sykes 12), 27 turnovers, 10 assists (Vanzant 4). Scoring: Pryor 15, Easter 14, Barnes 13, Vanzant 7, Jett 6, Havens 2.

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