By Chad Grant
YORK TWP. — In a game where momentum was more fickle than a child trying to decide what he wanted for Christmas, the team that made the last run was the winner.
With both teams trading scoring runs, big plays, bigger shots and turnovers Tuesday night, the Buckeye boys basketball team finally kept 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 right back and take the lead.
Elyria Catholic was poised to be the one finally seizing momentum when it went up two at 69-67 and had possession of the ball.
But Buckeye would not be denied. With 5-foot-8 Angelo Cruz (16 points, 4-of-5 3 point) inbounding the ball, the Bucks had 6-3 forward Jeff Miller guard Cruz.
“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, 7 rebounds) poked away the inbound pass and Matt Cox (16 points, 5 assist) scooped up the ball and dribbled quickly up court. Cox kicked the ball back out to red-hot Garrett Beck (26 points, 5 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 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 (5 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 4 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 banged in 17 points off the bench for Elyria Catholic, while Buckeye got 11 from Nick Prest.
The Buckeye offense, while not consistent, was a thing of beauty when it was working right. The Bucks had 23 assists on 31 baskets and, in addition to 10 helpers 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.”
The Panthers won the junior varsity game 55-42 behind 22 points from Ray Contreras. Tyler Hagmeier led the Bucks with 11.
Contact Chad Grant at email@example.com.