Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
PIKETON — The smile on Piketon’s Tra Swayne’s face at the end of Friday’s contest against Chesapeake spoke for itself.
The backdrop to Swayne’s ear-to-ear grin was a sectional championship celebration — photo ops, hugs with family members and, of course, scissors on nylon.
Swayne had plenty of reasons to smile, as did all of his teammates. The Redstreaks (19-5) captured their first sectional title since 2018 with a 62-53 over a sharpshooting Panther squad.
“Oh, it feels so good,” Swayne said. “It’s something that, when you’re a kid, you dream about. It feels good. Hopefully, we can get two more and do it again.”
Swayne finished the contest with 11 rebounds. But he was just one of five Redstreaks to finish with eight-plus boards in a game where they won the rebounding battle by a 53-30 margin.
That statistic provided second chance scoring opportunities, stops on the defensive end and momentum at every turn.
“We really needed to dominate the boards,” Levi Gullion said, who had 14 rebounds himself. “We were the bigger team and we really did that tonight.”
While the glass was controlled, Chris Chandler took it upon himself to shoulder the scoring load. What else is new? While six players scored seven or more points, Chandler ended with 22 while he drained six 3’s.
The Panthers (8-12) simply didn’t have an answer for the SVC’s leading scorer.
“He’ll get a burst and he’ll hit three in a row and the defense is like, ‘Oh crap, we better start stepping up.’ That opens it up for everybody else,” Swayne said of Chandler. “When he starts getting on his roll, he knocks them down.”
Levi Blankenship, who was magnificent all night long, gave Chesapeake a 3-0 lead right off the bat. But Tra Swayne and Kydan Potts put the Redstreaks on top at 4-3 with 5:26 to go in the first quarter — and the Panthers never led again.
Potts made it 6-3 before Chandler and Brody Fuller nailed back-to-back triples to cap a 12-0 run. By the end of the first, Piketon owned a 15-8 advantage.
That seven-point lead stood at 17-10 before Chandler decided to enter another world. The senior found his zone, hitting 3’s at the 6:12 and 5:46 marks to put the Redstreaks up 23-10. He then hit 2-of-4 free throws and dialed long distance again, making it a 28-15 score before Piketon took a 28-18 edge into halftime.
“He’s our go-to guy. He’s our scorer. He’s the guy that puts up 20 points each night,” Gullion said of Chandler. “We rely on him a lot. We’re always looking for him.”
Throughout the third, the Redstreaks kept distance, building leads of 34-24, 39-29, 43-32 and, eventually, a 45-35 count heading into the final quarter.
More of the same took place in the fourth. Every time that Chesapeake created even a spark of momentum, Piketon provided the stopper on the other end.
Chandler led a 5-0 run to begin the fourth, making it a 50-35 count, before Swayne and Fuller combined to put Piketon ahead 57-49 with 1:14 left. Down the stretch, Fuller and Shane Leedy took advantage of free throw opportunities to pound the nail in Chesapeake’s proverbial coffin.
Chandler led the ‘Streaks statistically with 22 points and eight rebounds while Gullion added nine points, 14 rebounds and three assists. Swayne finished with eight points and 11 boards, Fuller had eight points, eight rebounds and three assists and Leedy finished with seven points, eight rebounds and three dimes.
Blankenship led all scorers with 33 points while Ben Bragg added six points and five rebounds.
Piketon now looks towards a Division III district semifinal at Eastern Brown. That game is slated to start at 7 p.m., Tuesday.
“Now, it gets to big-boy time,” Swayne said. “It can’t be one guy hitting and the rest of the guys not able to hit. It has to be everybody firing on all cylinders. Eastern Brown is tough. It’ll be a challenge.”
Chesapeake: 8-12-15-18 — 53
Piketon: 15-13-17-17 — 62
Chesapeake: 20-65 FG, 6-6 FT, 7-30 3pt., 30 rebounds (Cox 12), 14 turnovers, 4 assists (Cox 2). Scoring: Blankenship 33, Bragg 6, Maynard 6, Schneider 4, Grim 2, Cox 2.
Piketon: 19-57 FG, 14-25 FT, 8-24 3pt., 53 rebounds (Gullion 14), 18 turnovers, 12 assists (Gullion 3, Fuller 3, Leedy 3). Scoring: Chandler 22, Gullion 9, Swayne 8, Fuller 8, Leedy 8, Potts 7.