LAGRANGE — Keystone wanted to share, but Buckeye would have none of it.
The Bucks captured an outright Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division title and set a program record for wins in a season Friday with a 49-38 victory in front of a packed house.
“We wanted it outright,” Buckeye point guard Cory Inman said after his team improved to 19-3, 15-1. “We didn’t want our names next to anybody on a banner.”
The Wildcats (16-6, 13-3), who could get a third crack at the Bucks in the Westlake Division II District semifinals, led 36-34 with 5:42 to play, but got outscored 15-2 the rest of the way.
After Jeff Miller (nine points, 11 rebounds) tied things at 36 off an assist from John Tighe (12 points), Inman (seven points, four assists) made the biggest play of the game.
Driving to the hoop following a Keystone turnover, the 5-foot-10 point guard got the ball around and over 6-5 C.J. Conrad (five points, nine rebounds, three assists), scored and was fouled. Inman converted the three-point play and the Bucks, who held the Wildcats scoreless for 4:56, pulled away behind a stingy defense that forced turnovers and turned them into free throws at the other end.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our defensive effort,” Inman said. “What did they have, 38 points? That was one of the best defensive performances I’ve ever been a part of.”
Keystone coach Jeff Holzhauer spoke highly of Buckeye’s extended 2-3 zone and credited the Bucks for their toughness, but also felt his team, which finished 1-for-20 from behind the arc, simply missed a lot of open shots.
“Their zone is tough and has caused problems for a lot of teams, but I thought we got the shots we wanted,” Holzhauer said. “We just didn’t make them.”
Keystone, which was 11-for-19 from deep Tuesday in a win over Northwestern, missed its first 10 3-point attempts against the Bucks before Matt Bastock (nine points) finally hit one with 1:51 left in the first half. The Wildcats then went 0-for-9 the rest of the way.
“That was outstanding defense,” said Buckeye center Chris Vogt, who had game highs of 13 points and five blocks while also pulling down five boards. “The first half was a little rough, but in the second half we picked it up. Every man out there worked hard.”
Keystone, which got 10 points, five rebounds and three assists from Austin Conrad and six points and six boards from Brandon Kuhl, went on a 10-1 run to go up 24-17 with 19.3 seconds left in the first half, but fouled Tighe on a 3-point attempt with 2.0 on the clock.
Tighe hit two of the three free throws to make it a five-point game at intermission, and the Bucks went on a 6-0 run over the first 2:23 of the third period to go up 25-24.
“That was huge,” Holzhauer said. “I take some of the blame for that because I made some changes at halftime, but I thought we got the looks we wanted. We just didn’t make them.”
Keystone regrouped to lead 32-31 after three and was up two with less than five minutes to play, but Buckeye, which got six points, four boards and two assists from Garrett Beck, dominated from that point.
Miller, who scored all nine of his points in the final 10:23 and had eight of his 11 boards after intermission, repeatedly came up with rebounds in traffic, while Inman, who handled the Wildcats’ trapping half-court defense well all night, had five of his seven points in the fourth period.
“We knew we had to be more aggressive and take it to them,” Vogt said of the job he and Miller did inside. “(Inman) did a great job. He stayed strong and played tough. He fought through all the fouls and played great.”
Put everything together and the Bucks earned their second PAC Stars Division title in four years.
“It’s indescribable,” Vogt said. “I can’t put into words how good this feels.”
The Bucks were 1-for-7 on 3-pointers — Tighe made the only one — on a night when the teams combined to go 2-for-27 from beyond the arc.
Buckeye 49, Keystone 38
BUCKEYE (49): Garrett Beck 1-4-6, Jeff Miller 3-3-9, Chris Vogt 5-3-13, John Tighe 3-5-12, Cory Inman 2-3-7, Tyler Hagmeier 1-0-2, Nate Polidori 0-0-0. Totals: 15-18-49.
KEYSTONE (38): Matt Bastock 4-0-9, Brandon Kuhl 3-0-6, C.J. Conrad 2-1-5, Austin Conrad 3-4-10, K.J. Williams 2-0-4, Collin Fitzgerald 1-0-2, Jacob Miller 1-0-2, Marcus Gunter 0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-5-38.
Buckeye 10 9 12 18 — 49
Keystone 8 16 8 6 — 38
Three-point goals: Tighe, Bastock. Rebounds: Buckeye 25 (Miller 11), Keystone 29 (C. Conrad 9). Assists: Buckeye 9 (Inman 4), Keystone 9 (C. Conrad, A. Conrad, Fitzgerald 3).