WELLINGTON — Brendan Scott used variations of the word “want” nine times during a postgame interview Tuesday.
That’s how driven Buckeye’s underdog boys basketball team is to win the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division.
Behind gritty performances from a host of players, the Bucks made an early-season statement with a 56-51 overtime win over defending division champion Wellington.
Buckeye (2-2, 2-0) rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half and blew a four-point lead in the closing moments of regulation, yet dominated the Dukes (2-2, 0-1) in the extra session to pull off the upset.
“It all came down to how badly we wanted it,” said Scott, who scored 10 of his game-high 19 points in the final 12 minutes. “We want this conference so bad. I don’t think any of these teams in the PAC give us much of a chance, but we really want to win this. We all dug deep.”
It was hard to argue with Scott after the way his team played, despite Wellington forcing OT thanks to Buckeye guards chucking up bricks instead of holding onto the ball.
No matter, as guard Ryan Ackim (13 points, game-high five assists), who missed four straight shots in the closing moments of regulation, hit a big 3-pointer and Scott banked in wide-open layups when Wellington was trying to foul in the backcourt.
Buckeye’s defense was even more critical, as the Dukes managed just two hotly contested attempts by Jason Perry (eight points, seven rebounds) that were well off the mark.
“We executed,” said Bucks point guard Ben Checkelsky, whose outstanding presence led a backcourt that committed just four turnovers over the final 20 minutes. “We played defense and made shots. This year, we have so much more charisma. We’re all together towards one goal: We want to win the (division).”
Down 38-28 midway through the third, a 13-0 Buckeye run keyed by perimeter defense, Scott (seven rebounds) and Checkelsky (11 points, eight rebounds, three assists) changed everything.
The Bucks eventually led 48-45 with less than two minutes left, but that’s when it nearly fell apart.
Instead of slowing down the pace to burn clock, Buckeye guards neglected coach Matt Saunders’ orders and went for the kill. Eight straight misses later, the Dukes’ Brady Shaw hit a free throw and Justin Kidd roll in a layup to tie the score.
But the four-minute OT was all about who wanted it more.
“I think it’s a testament to how badly we want to win this,” Scott said. “We just hung in and knew our opportunity would come. When we got it, we needed to cash in.”
Junior forward Zac Gilbert led the Dukes with 13 points, but the lack of a go-to scorer hampered Wellington, as it was 8-for-24 from the field after intermission.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.