HAVILAND - Reid Miller hit a pair of free throws with 21 seconds remaining and the Wayne Trace Raiders held on for a 55-53 win over Columbus Grove in the season opener of high school basketball Friday night at the Palace.

Miller picked off a Bulldog pass and drove to the basket where he was fouled, setting up the game winning free throws.

Columbus Grove had a chance to tie when the Bulldogs’ Blake Reynolds was fouled driving to the basket with :00.9 seconds on the clock.

However, Reynolds missed the first of two foul shots and Columbus Grove head coach Chris Sautter followed with a timeout. Reynolds then intentionally missed the second one but also missed the rim, turning over possession to Wayne Trace. The Raiders then in-bounded to run out the clock and start the new season with a victory.

“That was a big play by Reid,” noted Raider head coach Jim Linder. “He did a nice job of reading the play and then went to the hole and made two big foul shots.”

The game was tight throughout as neither team led by more than five points at any time.

Columbus Grove took an 18-14 advantage at the end of one quarter, getting a late bucket from Gabe Clement before a steal and basket at the buzzer by Tayt Bienesser.

A Reynolds two-pointer put the Bulldogs on top 20-15 early in the second quarter before Wayne Trace answered.

With Columbus Grove in front 23-19, the Raiders got baskets from Trae Sinn and Jace Vining to tie the game at 23-23.

Wayne Trace then jumped in front after a Nathan Gerber three-pointer and an Evan Mohr basket, seizing a 28-23 advantage.

“We got contributions from everybody tonight and that was great to see,” Linder added. “Evan Mohr came in and played very hard and did a very good job for us on both ends of the floor. Trae Sinn also had a great game. Alex went up and got rebounds and Jace hit some shots. Trevor hit a couple of free throws. Josiah went to the boards and hit some foul shots. It was just a good team win and everybody had a part in it.”

The Bulldogs closed the first half on a 10-3 run, taking a 33-31 halftime advantage as Evan Hopkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer.

“That is a good basketball team,” Linder stated of the Bulldogs. “They are young but they are going to just keep getting better and better and they will win a lot of games. They can shoot the basketball very well.”

Wayne Trace opened the second half with consecutive baskets from Vining and Gerber before Columbus Grove answered with a free throw by Reynolds and a bucket by Hopkins for a 36-33 lead.

With the Bulldogs on top 39-38, a Vining basket and two Speice free throws put Wayne Trace on top 42-39 late in the stanza.

Reynolds hit two free throws to close out the third quarter scoring, trimming the Columbus Grove deficit to 42-41 entering the fourth quarter.

“It was a great game to open the season with,” added the Raider mentor. “This kind of a game helps to prepare you for all kinds of situations that we aren’t able to work on in scrimmages or practices. To see how kids react and handle those situations is big and this will just help prepare us for down the road.”

After a three-pointer by Columbus Grove’s Tayt Birnesser opened the fourth quarter scoring, the Raiders responded with two Gerber free throws and a Sinn basket for a 46-44 lead.

With Wayne Trace on top 49-48, two Sinn foul shots widened the Raider lead to 51-48 but Columbus Grove wasn’t done.

Clement quickly responded for the Bulldogs, hitting a three-pointer to knot the game at 51-51.

“They made some plays against us and they hit some big shots,” Linder added. “But I liked the way our kids responded and we didn’t panic. It was good to see how we adjusted and how we handled ourselves there.”

Two Miller free throws and a basket by Columbus Grove’s Grayson Flores kept the game knotted at 53-53, setting up the late heroics for the Wayne Trace win.

Reynolds topped a trio of Bulldogs in double figures with 15 points while also pulling down ten rebounds. Clement chipped in 11 points and seven boards while Birnesser added ten markers.

Wayne Trace picked up 14 points each from Gerber and Sinn with Vining adding 11. Gerber also had seven boards.

Wayne Trace’s junior varsity also opened its season with a victory as the Raiders pulled away from the Bulldogs for a 37-30 victory.

Trevor Sinn paced the Raiders with ten points and Grayson McClure added seven. Cale Crosby also had six markers for Wayne Trace while Cameron Graham posted five.

Trey Sautter had nine points for Columbus Grove and Jon Ranal recorded seven points. Tanner Smith finished with six markers for the Bulldogs as well.

The Raiders return to action on Friday for a non-league battle at Bryan. Columbus Grove will have its home opener this evening as the Bulldogs welcome in Jackson Center in a 5:00 P.M. start.