With both teams trading scoring streaks, big plays, bigger shots and turnovers Tuesday night, the Buckeye boys basketball team finally got things going its way and won a thrilling 83-73 non-league overtime clash with Elyria Catholic.
Buckeye (1-0) was the initiator most of the night, leading by eight points twice, only to have the Panthers (0-2) answer and take the lead.
Elyria Catholic was poised to be the one finally seizing the momentum when it went up 69-67 and had possession of the ball.
But Buckeye would not be denied. With 5-foot-8 Angelo Cruz inbounding the ball, the Bucks countered with 6-3 forward Jeff Miller on defense.
“Defensively he is so strong and so long that we put him on the ball, and we thought he would make a play,” Bucks coach Matt Saunders said of Miller. “And he did. It just worked out perfectly.”
Miller (16 points, seven rebounds) poked away the inbound pass and Matt Cox (16 points, five assists) scooped up the ball and dribbled quickly up court. Cox kicked the ball back out to red-hot Garrett Beck (26 points, five rebounds), who calmly buried his fifth 3-pointer of the night to put the Bucks on top by a point.
“When Matt Cox passed that to me, I knew I had to take it,” Beck said. “It was insane.”
Panthers guard Daniel Whitacre then drew a late foul and split a pair of free throws to send the game into overtime.
“We had the game up two with 20 seconds left,” Elyria Catholic coach Jason Smith said. “We ran the play right. I put the wrong guy in the wrong position. It was my fault. But we came down the court and left their best shooter take a wide-open spot up at the top of the key.
“Nobody knows who they’re guarding. Our lack of communication is what lost this game.”
The Bucks outscored the Panthers 13-3 in overtime behind five free throws from Ryan Grauel (five points, 10 assists), six points from Miller and a defense that got stingy when it needed to step up.
“We came out in the overtime and said the team that defends better for these four minutes is going to win the game,” Saunders said. “We thought our kids really gritted down defensively, got a couple turnovers and did a great job on the boards.”
Tyler Riddell scored 17 points off the bench for Elyria Catholic, while Cruz had 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. Buckeye got 11 points from Nick Prest.
The Bucks had 23 assists on 31 baskets and, in addition to the 10 from Grauel, got five apiece from Cory Inman and Cox.
“They made their mistakes tonight, but they see the floor so well,” Saunders said of Grauel and Inman. “They are going to have some spectacular passes like they did tonight, and the other guys have gotten used to playing with them and expecting the ball.”
Buckeye 83, Elyria Catholic 73 (OT)
ELYRIA CATHOLIC 11 20 21 15 3 — 73
BUCKEYE 14 19 19 18 13 — 83
Elyria Catholic — Angelo Cruz 6-0-16, Daniel Whitacre 0-3-3, D.J. Graham 1-1-3, Conner Riddell 1-0-2, John Stursa 6-1-13, Cory Strasko 2-0-4, Tyler Riddell 7-1-17, Xavier Bennett 0-7-7, Justin Taylor 0-0-0, Ceevan Shelton 3-1-8. TOTALS: 26-14-73.
Buckeye — Garrett Beck 9-3-26, Matt Cox 7-0-16, Jeff Miller 6-4-16, Ryan Grauel 0-5-5, Cory Inman 0-1-1, Chris Vogt 4-0-8, Curtis Kinney 0-0-0, Nick Prest 5-1-11, Jimmy Vealey 0-0-0. TOTALS: 31-14-83.
3-point goals — Cruz 4, T. Riddell 2, Shelton, Beck 5, Cox 2. Rebounds — Elyria Catholic 30 (Bennett 9), Buckeye 35 (Miller 7). Assists — Elyria Catholic 9 (Graham, Stursa 3), Buckeye 23 (Grauel 10). Records — Buckeye (1-0), Elyria Catholic (0-2). Junior varsity — Elyria Catholic 55, Buckeye 42.
Contact Chad Grant at email@example.com.