McClain's Braden Wright gets inside against Panther defender. (HCP Photo/Jim Jones).
McClain's Braden Wright gets inside against Panther defender. (HCP Photo/Jim Jones).
GREENFIELD — After losing to conference and county rival Hillsboro last week, a game in which junior Bryson Badgley suffered a season-ending injury, the McClain Tigers regrouped and bounced back to defeat Miami Trace 38-32 Friday night for a Frontier Athletic Conference win.

Badgley an All-District selection from a year ago, who was the Tigers’ leading scorer and rebounder before the injury, was lost for the remainder of the season due to an early first-quarter ankle injury at Hillsboro. As for Friday night against Miami Trace, McClain used a strong defensive effort and some big play opportunities to make up for the loss of their team leader who was definitely missed, especially on the offensive end of the floor.

“This win was as special as they come,” an elated McClain head coach Joe B. Stewart said after the game. “This was just a heck of a win for us with a lot of big plays along the way to bring us there.

“This is who our kids are and who they’re raised to be, they’re not going to crumble when things get tough.”

It was a defensive battle the entire game with both teams really struggling most of the night to put points on the scoreboard.

McClain led 9-8 after the first period was in the books but the MT Panthers bounced back in the second frame and outscored the Tigers, 8-5 grabbing a slim 16-14 advantage at the half. Junior post player Braden Wright led McClain in the opening half with six points, while Preston Saunders added five points.

McClain opened the third period with an old-fashioned three-point play from Kendyll Toney, followed by a three-point shot from behind the arc by senior Camden Closson to grab a 20-16 lead. The Tigers scored 11 points in the quarter while holding Miami Trace to just four, extending their lead to 25-20 heading into the fourth quarter.

Another important factor in the quarter, and the game, was the fact that McClain controlled the boards on both ends and out-rebounded the much taller Panthers, 32-24.

“That was a real stretch against Miami Trace,” Stewart said. “We had some long rebounds that our guards ran down but we also had Wesley Potts, Braden Wright, and Kendyall Toney do a super job inside.”

McClain continued their aggressive style man-to-man defense in the fourth frame, scoring the first seven points of the period, and with just over four minutes remaining in the contest saw their lead go to double-digits at 32-20.

The Panthers first points of the fourth quarter didn’t come until the 2:45 mark of the period on a jumper by Braden Osborne.

Things would get a little interesting down the stretch after an unusual technical foul was called on the McClain bench, and some missed free-throw opportunities allowed Miami Trace to get back into the game. The Tigers regained their composure and converted a couple of big foul shots at the end, holding on for the important bounce back win.

“We had a script and needed to stick to it and our guys did, so they’re the heroes tonight,” Stewart said. “We made some big plays at big times and our kids obviously deserved this win.

“We made some adjustments with some more to come but the way our kids embraced the pace and play that we needed to have against a really big Miami Trace team here without Bryson (Badgley) was huge. I’m a proud basketball coach right here!”

McClain improves to 9-4 overall and 3-2 in the FAC. MHS was led in scoring by Braden Wright and Camden Closson with 10 points each.

Preston Saunders and Kendyll Toney followed close behind with eight points a piece, and senior Lyle White had two big free throws at the end to help ice the victory for the Tigers.

Braden Osborne led the Panthers with 10 points, followed by Dylan Bernard who added nine on three made 3-pointers.

The Tigers will host Circleville Saturday, Jan. 23 with senior night being observed before the non-conference game.