By Kenny Hetzler
Maconaquah used a strong finishing kick to beat Peru 55-51 in the Miami County Tournament championship game Saturday night at North Miami.
The Braves’ Adam Harts knotted the score at 51-all when he hit a 3-pointer with :41.5 left. After Peru was called for a traveling violation, Micah Pier hit a 15-foot jumper to give Maconaquah a 53-51 lead at :05.9. Peru had another chance to tie it, but another traveling call gave the ball back to Maconaquah. With the game mostly decided, K.J. Walton hit a layup with no time left on the clock for the 55-51 final.
“We go 0-2 [in the Coca-Cola Old School Sectional], playing a very tough Kokomo team, and Eastern is a solid ball club,” Maconaquah coach Andy Steele said. “We didn’t show up to play at the Old School Tournament so I challenged the guys coming into here to do a complete 180. Let’s go in and play Maconaquah basketball. We have to know that Pier isn’t going to dominate like he does in other games. Somehow, other players have to step up and play. Tyler Bradley did it. Harts played well, and Trevor Hagan played outstanding defense. It was just an overall team effort.”
Pier got into foul trouble, forcing other players to lead the way. Bradley did that in the third quarter. The Braves trailed 21-19 at halftime, but the 6-foot-3 junior wing scored 12 of his game-high 17 points in the third to lead Maconaquah to a 37-33 lead at the end of three.
Maconaquah built its lead up to eight points (41-33) in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Peru used free throws by Brodie Brooks and Logan Primerano to cut Maconaquah’s lead back to four (41-37) at 6:55.
Peru cut the deficit to one (46-45) on a jumper by Primerano with 2:31 left, then Primerano hit two free throws to give Peru a 47-46 lead at 2:02. Two free throws by Eddie Childers pushed the Tigers’ lead to 49-46 at 1:28 left. After trading baskets, Harts then hit his 3-pointer to tie it at 51-51.
“I am proud of my kids,” Peru coach Jim Metcalfe said. “The effort was amazing. We had some guys step up and play well for us at times. I am frustrated with the loss. It wasn’t the outcome that we wanted. We took some steps forward, and got better as a basketball team this week. Maconaquah is a good basketball team. [The Braves] exposed some of our weaknesses, things that we have to get better at, turning the ball over [is one of them].”
Peru (3-5) ended with 26 turnovers while Maconaquah (5-4) had 18. Another major factor was Maconaquah hitting two 3-pointers to Peru’s none.
Pier and Kyle Dinn each had eight points for Mac, and Walton and Harts each had seven.
Primerano led Peru with 14 points. Joe Comerford added a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Brooks scored 10 points.