WESTLAKE — The Buckeye boys basketball team did two things better than Firelands in the second half of Tuesday’s Westlake Division II Sectional semifinal.
Those two things were paramount in a 48-42 win.
The Bucks, who won their first postseason game since 2001, hit 8-of-8 free throws in the game’s closing minute. Firelands made only 7-of-17 for the game, including 3-of-8 in the fourth quarter.
Buckeye also nailed some 3-pointers. The Bucks hit all five of their threes in the second half, while the Falcons missed their first 12 attempts overall before a final-second heave to end the game went in.
It all added up to Buckeye outscoring Firelands 33-19 in the second half.
The Bucks (9-12) will play Benedictine on Friday at 7:30 with a chance to end another streak. Buckeye has not advanced to district play since 1993.
“We’ve been awful (free throw shooting) this year,” said Bill Doerge, who went 6-of-6 at the foul line in the final 49 seconds. “We were at about 58 percent, I think. We’ve been working at it. We’ve been improving.”
The Bucks weren’t so good at field goal shooting, either, in the first two quarters, but recovered from a 24 percent rate in the first half and 10-0 Firelands lead.
“Defensively, we were doing a decent job,” Buckeye coach Matt Saunders said. “We were doing a decent job against Kyle Smith, which was what we wanted to do. The trouble was on the offensive end.
“We were jittery. We needed to calm down. Be aggressive, but calm down.”
Whether it was calmness or aggression or just finding the shooting touch, the Bucks made two big moves on Firelands (8-13). The first came early in the third period with a 12-0 run to take a 27-25 lead. The other was outscoring the Falcons 11-3 over a 4:38 stretch of the last quarter.
It was in those dominating times when the Bucks hit all five of their 3-pointers.
“Everyone here can shoot from the perimeter,” Saunders said. “We got some big shots from a few unlikely sources. Cory (Inman) had those two threes in the fourth quarter. It’s huge for a sophomore coming off the bench to hit big shots like that in a tournament.”
The second of Inman’s long ones came with 3:46 to play and gave Buckeye the lead for good at 37-35.
“We were a little nervous,” Doerge said. “We were real excited to play. We started getting shots in rhythm finally. We were penetrating and kicking out to our shooters.”
Firelands got within 40-39 on a steal-and-basket by Smith with 1:51 remaining.
The Bucks held the ball and waited for Firelands, which had just four team fouls, to foul three times and put Buckeye in the bonus. The Falcons finally were called for No. 7 at 59.8 seconds left, and Ben Checkelsky hit both shots.
A missed jump shot at the other end was followed by the first of three fouls against Doerge, who hit all six chances to give the Bucks a 48-39 lead with six seconds to play.
In an ironic twist, a shot at the buzzer from well behind the arc by Smith was good. It was the only 3-point basket the Falcons made in 13 attempts.
Contact Steve Byrne at email@example.com.