YORK TWP. — Zach Stopper started it. Then he finished it.
After taking an ill-advised shot and getting it blocked, Stopper got the ball right back on a run-out and converted a three-point play to send the Columbia boys basketball team on its way to a 58-51 Patriot Athletic Conference cross-division win over Buckeye on Friday.
The play occurred after Columbia coach Larry Babics used his last timeout with the Raiders (2-0, 1-0) up 53-49, in possession of the ball and 1:21 left in the game. The plan was to avoid being trapped and either take layups or force the Bucks (1-1, 0-1) to foul.
As soon as Stopper got the inbounds pass, however, he drove middle, pulled up and had a 12-foot runner blocked.
“I went for it,” the 6-foot-2 senior said with a laugh. “It didn’t work out how I planned.”
Fortunately for Stopper, who had 10 points in the fourth period, 16 in the second half and 18 for the game, the Bucks immediately threw the ball away and he drove and scored with 1:07 to go. An official ruled he was fouled after the shot, and he made the front end of the one-and-one before missing the second to give the Raiders a much more comfortable 56-49 lead.
“We told him to split the trap right away, but we only wanted a layup,” Babics said. “We got a little too excited at the end. We need to slow ourselves down.”
Buckeye’s problem was it got way too excited at the outset. Playing in front of a very large and very loud student section, the Bucks fell behind 14-1 in the first 3:27. They battled back to lead 47-44 with 6:26 left in the game, but the energy they expended climbing out of the early hole caught up to them down the stretch.
“We came out a little jittery,” Buckeye coach Matt Saunders said. “There was a big crowd, our kids made more of it than it was and we put ourselves in a big hole.
“This is game No. 2 of a long season. This was not a conference championship. This was not a sectional championship. They wanted it to be rather than staying in the moment.”
On the flip side, the Raiders were able to regroup despite making just 5-of-14 free throws over the first three periods — they made 7-of-9 in the fourth while outscoring Buckeye 19-11 — and falling behind early in the final quarter.
They did so because Stopper repeatedly used a quick first step and great strength to get to the rim, and because guard Jay Banyasz (19 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists) and big men Jacob Simon (11 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists) and Kevin Simon (8 points, 12 boards) had monster nights.
Kevin Simon also did an outstanding job on Buckeye small forward Garrett Beck, who had 26 points in an 83-73 overtime win over Elyria Catholic in the Bucks’ season opener. Beck finished with seven points and seven rebounds, but didn’t get his first point until making a free throw with 28.8 seconds left in the first half. His first field goal came with 5:47 left in the third period.
“Our assistant told the kids that Columbia teams in the past might have folded,” Babics said. “This team is mentally tough. These kids never panicked.”
To their credit, neither did the Bucks, though they were hurt by a couple hurried 3-pointers down the stretch and a complete inability to keep the taller and more aggressive Raiders off the offensive rebounds.
“The biggest difference was they finished plays and we didn’t,” Saunders said. “We allowed them way too many second-chance points.”
Center Jeff Miller led Buckeye with 12 points and eight rebounds, while shooting guard Cory Inman was solid all night while putting up 10 points, six boards and three assists. Sophomore point guard Ryan Grauel had 10 points, two rebounds and three assists, but got in foul trouble and did not score after intermission.
Columbia was down three early in the fourth period, but closed the game on a 14-4 run. Stopper started that spurt and then delivered the dagger when his mental mistake had a wonderful ending for the Raiders.
“I was very happy when the ball came back to me,” he said. “It wasn’t like we wanted it to be, but it gave us a lift.”
|The Bucks won the middle two quarters 29-21, but were outscored 37-22 over the first and fourth periods.|
l The teams’ benches combined for five points — all by Buckeye’s Nick Prest.
l Buckeye won the junior varsity game 67-48 behind 22 points from Tyler Hagmeier, 13 apiece from Nathan Polidori and Nick Wills and 10 from Mason Stanton. Brian Hershey had 20 for Columbia.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Columbia 58, Buckeye 51
COLUMBIA 18 11 10 19 — 58
BUCKEYE 11 17 12 11 — 51
Columbia — Zach Stopper 8-2-18, Kevin Simon 3-2-8, Jacob Simon 4-1-11, Brandon Severo 0-2-2, Jay Banyasz 6-5-19, Michael Boey 0-0-0, David Delahunty 0-0-0, Ryan Solanics 0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-12-58.
Buckeye — Garrett Beck 3-1-7, Matt Cox 2-1-7, Jeff Miller 4-4-12, Cory Inman 4-0-10, Ryan Grauel 3-3-10, Nick Prest 2-1-5, Curtis Kinney 0-0-0, Mike Bacho 0-0-0, Jimmy Vealey 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-10-51.
3-point goals — J. Simon 2, Banyasz 2, Inman 2, Cox 2, Grauel. Rebounds — Columbia 46 (J. Simon 13), Buckeye 35 (Miller 8). Assists — Columbia 6 (Banyasz, Simon 2), Buckeye 8 (Grauel, Inman 3). Records — Columbia (2-0, 1-0), Buckeye (1-1, 0-1). Junior varsity — Buckeye 67, Columbia 48.