Braves junior R.J. Griffin scored 13 points and junior Zion Crowe and sophomore Darian Dixon each had 11 points as Shawnee fell to 9-6 and 4-2 in the Kenton Trail Division.
“Defensively, we weren’t nearly as good (in the second half),” said Shawnee coach Chris McGuire. “We gave up some offensive rebounds in some key spots. Those are all things we pride ourselves on, being able to guard and get rebounds, and I didn’t think we did it in the second half well enough to win the game.”
Shawnee led 21-17 at the half and took a 37-33 lead on a 3-pointer by sophomore Zane Mercer as time expired at the end of the third quarter.
The Braves led by four after two made free throws by Dixon made it 45-41 with 4:43 remaining, but a bucket by O’Connor and a steal and layup by Tecumseh senior Braden Berner tied the score.
Another basket by O’Connor, a putback by Harrod-Allen and two made free throws by Linger gave the Arrows a lead they would never relinquish at 51-45.
Tecumseh was dominant on the offensive boards, scoring several easy bucks on putbacks throughout the game.
“We talk about defensive rebounding and getting back,” Leathley said. “Transition defense is important to us, but we’ve been the best offensive rebounding team we’ve had at Tecumseh for a while. It’s the kids we have. They just have a mentality to go get it. Those guys just hustle after the ball. We’ve got kids who are physical and play hard and I think that showed tonight.”
Griffin hit two free throws with about 50 seconds remaining, but the Braves wouldn’t get any closer. The Arrows held Shawnee to just three field goals in the fourth quarter. The Braves struggled to make 3-pointers against Tecumseh’s 2-3 zone.
“It makes it tough when you’re struggling to hit perimeter shots, they put a lot of focus inside and pack it in a little bit,” McGuire said. “We especially struggled in the first half, but you’ve got to make open shots. We’ve got to finish some shots around the rim, but for me it came down to the defensive end and we just didn’t get it done.”
The Braves are now two games back in the CBC Kenton Trail Division with four games to play. They’ll now need some help to win the title, but McGuire’s focus will be on getting his team to play more consistently on defense down the stretch.
“I’ve got to get these guys to understand that we’ve got to have that defensive grit and grind to be able to get stops when you’ve got to win with your defense,” McGuire said. “If we can get there, we’ll be alright. We’ve shown some glimpses of it.”
The Arrows host first-place Jonathan Alder (12-4, 7-0 Kenton Trail) on Tuesday night in New Carlisle. In their previous meeting on Dec. 28, Tecumseh led by five points twice in the fourth quarter, but fell 41-39. The Arrows hope their experience in close games over the last few weeks will help in their upcoming matchup.
“This was a good step tonight,” Leathley said.