The excitement and pageantry that came with opening Wade E. Miller Arena lasted until about game time Saturday night.
Middletown High School’s new athletic facility hosted a decisive girls basketball win in the afternoon as the Middies buried Colerain 71-19. But the first boys game in the arena went the other way for the purple-and-white.
Lima Senior rode into town and crushed Middletown 75-32, spoiling the Middies’ debut in what Lima coach Quincey Simpson described as “probably the best facility in the state. If there’s another one better, I need to see it.”
FRIDAY NIGHT: Hamilton wins finale at Wade E. Miller Gym
“Tonight was a pivotal awakening of sorts about who and what we should be,” Middletown coach Darnell Hoskins said. “That was a great depiction of the level of physicality, mental focus, toughness and nastiness that they represented, so it was good for us to experience that now so we have some type of reference point moving forward.
“That’s the positive you take away from this, that there’s no way to go but up from here. There’s no more lowly feeling in the world than getting beat to a pulp like we did tonight on our home floor in the fashion that we did.”
The Middies (1-3) never led. It took them more than three minutes to score — two points for Jawunn Bailey on a goaltending call against the Spartans — and the deficit was 37-11 midway through the second period.
Middletown made seven field goals, shot 18.9 percent from the floor and committed 28 turnovers.
“It was a wakeup call,” Middies junior center Chris Stallworth said. “I feel like we came in thinking since we had the new arena and the new unis, it was just going to be easy. But they came out and pressured us, and we weren’t ready for it.
“Coach is talking about how we’re getting everything, but we’re not giving it back. I feel like it’s just effort at this point. We’ve got to get more used to playing with each other and start working harder in practice.”
Aaron Jones tossed in 14 points and KeiAunte Powell added 10 for the Middies. Bailey had six points and 11 rebounds.
Hoskins is glad that his team is now finished with all the hoopla surrounding the closing of Wade E. Miller Gym on Friday and the opening of Wade E. Miller Arena. He wants his players to dive into the daily grind of improvement.
“I hate the way we let the community and our school down by laying a goose egg the way we did tonight, but the silver lining in the cloud is that it happened to us early where we can fix it and get better as a result of it,” Hoskins said. “Their perception of what big-time basketball means and represents is kind of convoluted right now because of everything that surrounds this place. Now we can get back to what’s really important and that’s us getting better incrementally.
“I’ve been on teams that have lost many times, but the most disappointing thing to me was the manner in which we went about it tonight. We quit competing. Everybody started the ‘me’ syndrome instead of sticking to what and who they’re supposed to be, which is a blue-collar team that’s a sum of all its parts that has to work together on both ends of the floor. That’s who we have to be.”
Lima (3-0) came at Middletown with waves of pressure and athleticism.
Jermaine Daniel (18), Bryan Miller Jr. (14) and Jaleel King (11) were the leading scorers for the Spartans, who shot 56.5 percent from the field after halftime and 49.1 percent overall. The Middies were 1 of 18 from the floor in the second half.
“I don’t know if it went the way we drew it up, but we are getting better at doing some full-court things offensively and defensively,” Simpson said. “What we’re trying to do this year is not put a whole lot on our group, but try to perfect a couple things — full-court pressure and then try to outlet the ball and get it out in transition pretty quick.
“Middletown has a lot of inexperience, but knowing Darnell, he’s going to get this group together. They’re going to be a tremendous team in years to come. But I think our experience and size were a little bit overwhelming for them tonight.”
It was the 98th meeting between the former Greater Miami Conference rivals, with the Middies holding a 64-34 advantage. The schools resumed their series last season after nine years without playing.
Simpson, a 1993 Lima graduate, wants the rivalry to continue.
“For me, it’s a big deal because I was around back in the ’90s,” he said. “I understand the magnitude of Lima Senior-Middletown. It’s very special.”
The Middies may or may not be adding a familiar face to their roster. E.J. Williams, a 6-foot-11 center who played for Middletown in 2014-15 and 2015-16 before transferring out of state, has returned to this area.
“As far as I know, he is enrolled in school at Middletown, although I don’t have a direct confirmation on that,” Hoskins said. “We’re still waiting on word from the state if he’s going to be able to join us or not. I’ve never seen him play in person, but a guy that size would be a welcome addition if and when it does happen. But right now, it’s just pure speculation.”
Both teams are back in action at home Tuesday night, the Middies against Fairfield and the Spartans against Toledo St. Francis de Sales.
Lima Senior 23-21-7-24—75
LIMA SENIOR (3-0): Bryan Miller Jr. 6 2 14, Amihr Curtis 2 2 7, Jainaz Cameron 1 0 2, Jaleel King 2 7 11, Jatsiel Colon 3 0 6, Da’san Clair 0 1 1, Cory Clair 2 2 6, Jermaine Daniel 7 0 18, Greg Johnson 4 0 8, Deklen Davis 1 0 2. Totals: 28-14-75
MIDDLETOWN (1-3): KeiAunte Powell 2 5 10, Aaron Jones 4 4 14, Chris Stallworth 0 1 1, Jawunn Bailey 1 4 6, Blake Marshall 0 1 1. Totals: 7-15-32
3-pointers: L 5 (Daniel 4, Curtis), M 3 (Jones 2, Powell)