East Palestine has its hands full at Classic

EAST LIVERPOOL — The East Palestine Bulldogs drew a tough opening assignment in the semifinals of the 24rd annual Potter Holiday Classic boys basketball tournament Thursday night at Potter Fieldhouse.

The young Bulldogs went up against unbeaten and perennial Ohio Division III power Wheelersburg (6-0) and the veteran Pirates rolled to an 81-24 win over the Bulldogs.

“(Playing in a tough tournament) is a really good experience for us for (the postseason) tournament and our kids can see where we want to go,” said East Palestine coach Bill Stanton. “It was not a great one tonight, but you have to look at it, like, we’re building a program and we want to see (good teams like this).”

East Palestine (2-6) will play Cleveland Martin Luther King Jr. (5-3) in the consolation game of the Potter Holiday Classic at 5 p.m. today. Host East Liverpool will play Wheelersburg in the title game at 6:45 p.m.

MLK Jr. lost to East Liverpool 62-56 in Thursday’s other semifinal.

“I thought our kids did a nice job coming out, we had a long trip (four hours) up here this morning and you never know how your kids are going to be,” Wheelersburg coach Adam Payton said. “I thought our kids responded well.”

The Pirates were led by 6-foot-6 senior standout Tanner Holden, a Wright State recruit, with a game-high 26 points, including four slam dunks.

Complementing him in the scoring column were Matthew Miller with 13 points and Connor Mullins with 10.

“He (Holden) has worked really hard and has put in his time,” Payton said. “He’s a great athlete and did a nice job getting us started tonight.”

Leading the Bulldogs were Abel Figley with seven points and Parker Sherry with five points.

With Holden, one of the best small forwards in Ohio leading the way with 12 points in the first half, including two slam dunks, the Pirates jumped out to a 20-6 lead after the first period and never looked back. The Pirates also had four three-pointers in the opening half and finished with seven for the game.

Featuring quickness on defense and excellent ball movement on offense, the Pirates forced 12 first-half turnovers out of the Bulldogs while expanding their lead to 44-8 at intermission.

“Tanner Holden is heck of a basketball player,” Stanton said. “Even when we were preparing for them, you want to stop Tanner Holden but at the same time how do you stop the other shots?”

East Palestine’s Parker Sherry and Aben Figley accounted for all of the Bulldogs’ scoring in the first half as each player had four points.

“Our kids played hard and that’s all you can ask of them,” said Stanton. The Bulldogs didn’t reach double figures offensively in the game until Figley drained a three-pointer with 3:58 left in the third period, making it 58-11 in favor of the Pirates.

Wheelersburg cleared its bench with 2:37 remaining in the third period, with the Pirates up 63-13.

The Pirates led 65-16 after three and went on to close out the win.

Their biggest lead was 57 points twice in the fourth quarter, including at game’s end.

EAST PALESTINE: 6- 2- 8- 8–24

WHEELERSBURG: 20-24-21-16–81

WHEELERSBURG SCORING: Trent Salyers 1-2-5, Dustin Darnell 2-1-5, Connor Mullins 4-0-10, Matthew Miller 5-0-13, Justin Salyers 1-0-2, Landon Thompson 0-0-0, Carter McCorkle 2-2-6, JJ Truitt 3-1-8, Tanner Holden 11-4-26, Asheton Cleavenger 1-0-2, Mason Montgomery 0-2-2, G. Adkins 0-0-0, Corey Maxie 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 34, 12-15: 81.

EAST PALESTINE SCORING: Cooper Vance 0-0-0, Tyler Bistarkey 0-2-2, Steve Darlington 0-3-3, Dom Cathers 0-0-0, Parker Sherry 2-1-5, John Bertovich 1-0-2, Dom Lohr 0-0-0, Dalton Vance 1-1-3, Brandon Turcola 0-0-0, Dom Fertch 0-0-0, Sean Helpy 1-0-2, Abel Figley 3-0-7, Tommy Shasteen 0-0-0, Evan Smith 0-0-0 . TEAM TOTALS: 8, 7-11: 24.

Three-point goals: East Palestine 1 (Abel Figley), Wheelersburg 7 (Matthew Miller 3, C. Mullins 2, Trent Salyers, JJ Truitt).