Circle boys get big win over Winfield

Lionel Tipton

TOWANDA – Circle’s Senior Night game Tuesday against Winfield was anything but Tuesday night.

The Thunderbirds’ lone senior, leading scorer Drew Middleton, was sick and couldn’t play (not COVID-19).

But this placed extra responsibility on his underclass teammates, and they responded.

After falling behind early by as many as seven points, Circle (6-14) caught the Vikings (2-17) in the second quarter and forged ahead, never looking back in a 76-64 victory.

The triumph assured the T-Birds of the third seed at sub-state, and they will travel to face second-seeded Andale in the first round next Tuesday night.

The final margin of victory doesn’t really show how close this game was.

Winfield hit 11 three-pointers in the game, but it was the threes that helped Circle come back. The T-Birds hit six in the game – three by junior guard Luke McGinnis. They also got a spark when sophomore guard Dylan Foes hit a couple of high-arching threes at critical times.

Without Middleton, Circle was given a glimpse of what life will be like without him next season. 

McGinnis was one of four Circle players scoring in double figures, leading the team with 22. Sophomore Ty Smith had one of his best games, hitting nine field goals for 18 points. Another sophomore, Trevor Cowman, hit the Thunderbirds’ other three-pointer and finished with 13 points. And junior post Brenden Galloway had 10 points.

McGinnis’ three-pointer way beyond the line on the right side with 6:07 before halftime gave Circle a 25-22 lead, and the Thunderbirds would not relinquish it, holding Winfield to six points in the second quarter.

They led 35-29 at halftime, and Smith scored eight of his points in the third quarter, when Circle outscored the Vikings, 21-12, for a 56-40 lead. Circle maintained that lead in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of its 20 points in the period at the free-throw line. McGinnis and Cowman each went four-for-four. 

It was just a matter of knowing what the team had to do in Middleton’s absence, Cowman said.

“He was gone Monday, and I was like ‘Hopefully, he’s going to come up tomorrow.’ And (Drew’s brother) D.J. (a junior on the team) came to school, and I asked, ‘Where’s Drew?’ and he said, ‘He’s not coming,’ and I said, ‘Seriously?’ In preparing for the game, I knew I had to step up, and Luke stepped up in a big way. A lot of guys stepped up (Tuesday night).”

Cowman made no secret of the team he’s looking forward to facing at sub-state.

“We especially want (top-seeded) Augusta,” he said. “That’s who we want to play.” 

The Orioles edged Circle a week ago, 47-46, on Xander Roberts’ buzzer-beater.

T-Birds coach Bo Horyna said D.J. Middleton told him Drew wasn’t feeling well at Sunday night’s practice.

“When he wasn’t at practice Monday or at school, I knew he probably wasn’t going to be able to play,” Horyna said. “He’ll be ready for sub-state. He’ll probably be ready for Friday night (at McPherson).”

Horyna said everyone on the team came together to provide a much-needed victory.

“That’s what I told (the team) before the game,” he said. “When your leading scorer goes out, we don’t need somebody to step up and pick up what he’s scoring, but we need everybody to pick up a few extra buckets.

“I think everybody stepped up and did that – our bench, especially.”

McGinnis, the T-Birds’ football quarterback, took the lead in Middleton’s stead.

“When I get into a rhythm early, that always helps,” he said. “We knew we had to step up in the absence of Drew, and being the team leader I had to take more shots and be a leader (Tuesday night) more than ever.

“I think we all stepped up our game and played well as a team. Ty stepped up big and so did Trevor. We need that every single game. The more weapons we can have as an entire unit, the more dangerous we are.”

It probably was Smith’s best game as a T-Bird, he said.

“Against Winfield (a 71-52 road victory), (Middleton) had 20, 30-some, and before the game I said to the boys, ‘That’s 20, 30-some that we’ve got to make up,’” Smith said. “So, I knew that I was going to have to take more shots, Trevor Cowman was going to have to take more shots, and that just happened.”

Circle boys 76, Winfield 64

Winfield 23;6;11;24 – 64

Circle 18;17;21;20 – 76

WINFIELD – Harper 7(2) 4-5 24, George 1(4) 0-0 14, Beckwith 2(3) 0-0 13, Towles 0(1) 2-4 5, Franklin 1 1-2 3, Moore 0(1) 0-0 3, Acosta 1 0-0 2. Totals 12(11) 7-13 64.

CIRCLE – McGinnis 3(3) 7-8 22, Smith 9 0-0 18, Cowman 3(1) 4-5 13, Galloway 5 0-0 10, Foes 0(2) 0-0 6, Killman 2 0-0 4, Koehn 0 3-8 3. Totals 22(6) 14-21 76.