Brock Netter, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — When this year’s schedule came out, Chillicothe had a few games circled, but none were bigger than its matchup with Zane Trace.
It was the Cavaliers’ chance to avenge an early season loss last year to a fellow Ross County team, and they didn’t miss their shot … figuratively and literally.
The team’s offense undoubtedly ran through senior Brandon Noel, and the Wright State commit answered the bell with 23 points and 13 rebounds in the a 65-49 victory over the Pioneers on Friday.
“We wanted to be the best team in Ross County,” Noel said. “We scrimmaged Unioto and got by them, then beat Adena and now Zane Trace, which are all three really tough teams. They aren’t to be taken lightly, so we knew we had to come out with the right mindset because we want to be the best.”
While Noel was spearheading the charge on offense, he had a tough assignment defensively guarding Zane Trace’s Nick Nesser. It’s rare that Noel, at 6-foot-8, guards someone on an equal playing field. But he helped hold the Pioneers’ 6-foot-6 big man to just two points on the night, both on free throws.
“He’s really tough in the paint, but he can step out and hit that mid-range shot,” Noel said. “That’s what hurt us last year was his shooting, which was tough for us. But he wasn’t hitting those shots and we played pretty good defense to limit him.”
“We made things tough for Zane Trace and we did a good job of hedging off ball screens to limit those passes into the post,” Chillicothe coach Eric Huffer said. “Nick and Triton [Davidson] do a nice job of ducking in off ball screens. Our help defense on the weak side to help take away that pass was great. We wanted them to beat us on the outside after they got us on the inside last year. We executed our game plan and I couldn’t be prouder of the effort.”
After Zane Trace (7-2) jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, the offensive onslaught for the Cavaliers (9-1) began. Vincent Roper and Tre Beard connected on back-to-back buckets to give Chillicothe an 8-7 lead, an advantage the team never relinquished.
Beard and Noel led a 10-2 run to end the first quarter for an 18-9 Cavalier lead, but they were just getting started.
In the second, Beard connected on a triple that capped a 7-0 run, pushing the lead to 25-9. Chillicothe was in full control.
“We didn’t play to our full potential last year against Zane Trace and our coaches reminded us of that,” Beard said. “This time, we got stops in transition and ran the floor, which is our bread and butter. The coaches told us that when we get out and run, not a lot of teams can stop us.”
Zane Trace countered with a 7-0 behind Bryce Johnson to regain some momentum before going into the half trailing 33-23.
With momentum on the their side, the Pioneers cut the lead to 41-33 with 2:25 left the game behind Cam Evans.
However, that was as close as they’d get after Chillicothe finished the frame on a 10-0 run, highlighted by a two-handed flush from Noel.
“I saw the open lane and I was thinking, ‘Should I do it?’,” Noel said of his rim-rocking dunk. “But it was instinct, and I just went up for it. Emotions sort of just took over after I slammed it. It was wild.”
After Noel’s final stat line, Beard finished with 19 points and four rebounds while Jayvon Maughmer had 12 points and five boards.
Cam Evans finished with 23 points and seven rebounds to lead Zane Trace, while Johnson added 10 points.
Both teams return to action on Friday. Chillicothe heads to Alexander while Zane Trace hosts Piketon in SVC play.
“From this point out, all of our games are really tough,” Beard said. “That Moeller game taught us a lot, especially staying with them in the first half. When we get that first half energy for all four quarters, we know we can be the best.”
Zane Trace: 9-14-10-16 — 49
Chillicothe: 18-15-18-14 — 65
Zane Trace: 18-47 FG, 7-8 FT, 6-17 3 pt., 19 rebounds (Evans 7), 10 turnovers, 9 assists (Swain 4). Scoring: Evans 23, B. Johnson 10, Swain 7, Davidson 4, L. Johnson 3, Nesser 2.
Chillicothe: 21-31 FG, 9-14 FT, 4-17 3 pt., 31 rebounds (Noel 13), 8 turnovers, 13 assists (Roper, Smith, Maughmer, Beard 3). Scoring: Noel 23, Beard 19, Maughmer 12, Roper 6, Smith 3, Taylor 3.