EATON TWP. — Three-point shooting is still Cloverleaf’s trump card, as evidenced by the Colts firing up 26 of them on Tuesday night.
Yet it was a pair of steals and breakaway baskets that resulted from them that made the difference in Cloverleaf’s 49-44 victory over Midview in the semifinals of the Bob DiFranco Memorial Holiday Tournament.
Robby Buckwald was involved in both steals. He intercepted a pass and scored with 1:22 to play to give Cloverleaf (3-5) a 44-43 lead. Less than a minute later, the sophomore guard tipped a pass to Zack Miglich, who dribbled down the court before delivering a pass to Buckwald for a layup and a 47-44 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
“Robby is a heck of a defender,” Cloverleaf coach Dan Brown said. “We moved him up last year to simulate the other team’s best defensive player, and we found no one could guard him. Then we decided to let him stay (with the varsity).”
It has worked so far. Buckwald scored 31 points against Highland and the winning layup vs. Tallmadge.
“I want to be a defensive threat,” Buckwald said. “That is mostly what I try to do —get the steals and score in transition.”
Buckwald scored all eight of his points in the second half, as early foul problems sent him to the bench for much of the first two quarters.
Three-point shooting was still a factor; although it appeared for much of the game as if the long-range shots would doom Cloverleaf. The Colts were 6-of-22 on 3-point tries before hitting three in a row in a 1:34 stretch early in the fourth quarter. Brandon Johnson’s 3-pointer gave Cloverleaf a 40-39 lead —the Colts’ first lead since 3-0 in the first period.
“That’s one of our strengths,” Brown said of his team’s 3-point shooting. “In the past few games it hadn’t been what it should be, I think because we were shooting them too soon. Those three in a row (in the fourth quarter) were huge.
“This was our most complete win,” Brown said. “Tonight our players faced a deficit. They did not panic, and they took control.”
J.D. Schleich, another sophomore, led the Colts with 16 points. His previous high-point total this season was nine.
“J.D. had a breakout game,” Brown said. “I hope this game kick-starts him for the rest of the season. He’s a good shooter.”
Schleich hit four 3-pointers and sealed the victory by rebounding a missed shot and getting fouled with 2.8 seconds left. Schleich hit both of his free throws.
Midview (3-3) scored 10 in a row to take a 10-3 lead and was ahead by 10 points at one time in the first quarter. Riley Moore lead the Middies with 17 points, 10 of them in the opening quarter.
Miglich had five assists and Brandon Whitslar added four assists for Colts.
Contact Steve Byrne at email@example.com.