Young Miami East boys basketball team falls to West Liberty-Salem in D-III sectional action

VANDALIA — The Miami East and West Liberty-Salem boys basketball teams brought matching 14-8 records into Tuesday’s Vandalia D-III sectional game at the SAC.

But, vastly different rosters.

And, while the game was exactly even at the half, the Tigers experience was a factor in the second half in a 70-51 win over the Vikings.

“We were concerned about that going into the game,” Miami East coach Justin Roeth said. “We are extremely young. We were going up against a team full of seniors and juniors.”

And while the final result was disappointing Tuesday night, the season was a huge success.

The Vikings were definitely ahead of the curve before a devastating leg injury to freshman Wes Enis.

“We were 12-3 at the time,” Roeth said. “We had a major injury and Sam (Zapadka) had an ankle injury at the same time and we were without him for a few games. We have definitely faced some adversity this season. And it is just my second season (as varsity coach) learning a whole new defense and changing the culture.”

But, for one half Tuesday night, the game was as even as it could be.

The score was tied 32-32 at half — with both teams having 11 fields goals, five 3-pointers and five free throws in the opening half.

Miami East was still within 45-41 midway through the third quarter.

But, the Vikings were outscored 25-10 the rest of the way and managed just five field goals in the second half.

“We really struggled to score in the second half,” Roeth said. “And West Liberty-Salem had a couple kids that really stepped up. They played hard and we wish them luck as they go on in the tournament.”

Nick Burden had 11 points in the third quarter alone as the Tigers took a 55-44 lead to the fourth quarter and increased it from there.

“When you are one-and-done at your end, you have to stop the other team from scoring and we didn’t do that,” Roeth said.

Jacob Roeth led Miami East with 23 points, four assists and three steals, while Nick Prince had 11 points and six rebounds.

Zapadka had six points, five rebounds and three assists and Noah King pulled down 14 rebounds.

Burden had 29 points, 11 rebounds and six assists for West Liberty-Salem.

Tanner LeVan had 11 points, five rebounds and three assists and Owen Johnson also scored 11 points.

Logan Saylor scored 12 points and Cam Strapp had six rebounds and four assists.

Miami East was 15 of 48 from the floor for 33 percent, including six of 24 from 3-point range for 25 percent. The Vikings made 13 of 19 free throws for 68 percent.

WLS was 25 of 45 from the floor for 55 percent, including eight of 18 from long range for 44 percent. The Tigers made 12 of 20 free throws for 60 percent.

East won the battle of the boards 31-29 and had seven turnovers to the Tigers 12.

It was the final game for seniors Zapadka, Adam Bensman and Ian Smith.

“Those guys all have bright futures and I am excited for them,” Roeth said. “And the Miami East program has a bright future.”

After taking a big step forward in Roeth’s second year.