NEW PARIS — For National Trail boys basketball coach Mike Harrison, his team’s 60-58 loss to visiting Miami East came down to one aspect of the game — rebounding.
The Blazers were outrebounded 36-24 overall, while giving up 19 offensive boards in the process, in a Cross County Conference game played on Friday, Jan. 15.
“We’ve got to rebound the basketball. We’ve got to rebound the basketball. I could say that 10 times,” he said moments following the loss. “It’s been an Achilles heel for us, I’ll say since the summer, even though we didn’t get to do much of anything in the summer. The only thing we did was scrimmage some graduates. We knew rebounding was going to be an issue. We’ve tried to manage the situation, teach the situation. We’ve just got to keep working. There’s some rebounds that you just can’t get, because physically you can’t get. But 75 percent of them come down far enough that we can get them. And we’ve just got to get a higher percentage of them. It gives us something to work on.”
The Blazers have lost just twice in the past month, and in both cases rebounding has been the issue.
“Our only two losses here in the last four weeks have been to very good teams,” Harrison said. “I think [Preble] Shawnee and Miami East are both very good teams, both losses by two points. There’s a variety of things with Shawnee, but I think in both cases we got outrebounded. We’ve been outrebounded most games this year, and it’s just a matter of us managing that the best we can. But we just can’t get beat on the boards that bad.”
After falling behind 13-9 midway through the first quarter the Blazers got hot from behind the 3-point line, making four straight to take a 23-17 after the first quarter.
Trail extended its lead to 10 twice in the fourth quarter before East made it a six point game at the half, 38-32.
The Blazers still held a six-point lead heading into the final quarter, 49-43.
A Miami East 9-3 run to begin the quarter tied the game at 52-52 with 3:23 to play.
Trail regained the lead, 54-52, with 1:34 to play.
A 3-pointer with 1:05 remaining gave East a 55-54 lead, its first since 15-14 of the first quarter. A free throw with 33 seconds left made it a 56-54 game.
Trail made one of two free throws with 21 seconds left to trim their deficit to 56-55. Four straight free throws by East looked to ice the game, but Trail’s Cameron Harrison made a 3-pointer with a second left and the Blazers forced a turnover without time coming off the clock to get one final chance to win.
The Blazers got off a shot from the corner as time expired but the shot rimmed out.
“I was proud of our kids down the stretch for not giving up. We’re down five with six seconds to go. And we should be on the line with a chance to tie it right now,” Coach Harrison said, believing Cameron was fouled on the last play. “I was proud of the way we continued to battle. We did a great job not turning it over. They hit shot after shot after shot. I don’t think we were porous defensively. They were were hitting shots. I think we were we were playing well. We were competing. Just got to clean it up on the boards.”
The veteran coach said his team is not going to shoot high percentages all the time and needs to take advantage of those situations when they’re not shooting well.
“Actually, at halftime we talked about that. We’re not going to shoot 70 percent from three or whatever it is all the time,” he said. “We’ve got to, in those situations, again rebounding. We’ve got to go get some easy baskets once in a while. And when you’re not shooting [well], you’ve got to get some of those easy baskets.”
Cameron Harrison paced the Blazers with 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Tyler Weathington added 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Elijah Stewart contributed 13 points and Wyatt House chipped in with 12.
“I was very happy for Eli Stewart again, that was the most aggressive he’s been knocking shots down. And we’ve had those runs this year, where all of a sudden, for a quarter, a quarter and a half, we got guys who can knock shots down,” Coach Harrison said. “You rarely play a 32 minute game against a good team and get the same thing the whole time.”
Trail (6-4, 3-2 CCC) was scheduled to play at Covington on Tuesday, Jan. 19. They will host Bethel on Friday, Jan. 22 and play at Eaton on Saturday, Jan. 23.
“We got a game on Tuesday at Covington. We’ve got to be better and work to get better and move on to the next one,” Coach Harrison said.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 or follow on Twitter @emowenjr