YORK TWP. — The Buckeye boys basketball team snapped out of its post-holiday funk in the nick of time on Friday night.
Ryan Grauel, Matt Cox and Jeff Miller combined to make four unanswered free throws in the final 76 seconds, lifting the Bucks to a 53-50 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division victory over Firelands.
The Falcons (3-5, 2-3) had taken a 50-49 lead on a Casey Smith 3-point play with 1:27 left, but were held scoreless on their final three possessions by Buckeye (5-3, 3-2).
“It’s really nice when you can get a win on a night when you don’t play your best,” said Bucks coach Matt Saunders, whose squad last played on Dec. 28. “In the entire first half, it looked like we were just going through the motions, which we haven’t done all year.
“I basically called the guys out to see if they had any guts at halftime. They made just enough clutch plays to pull this one out.”
Junior center Miller led the Bucks with 15 points and nine rebounds, while senior power forward Cox had 13 points, and sophomore shooting guard Grauel added six points and three assists.
Junior point guard Cory Inman also came up big for Buckeye with five points, a game-high six assists, and three fourth-quarter steals. His final theft came with 14 seconds left and allowed Miller to go to the foul line a fraction of a tick later.
“At times, Cory can be ‘that guy’ for us, and he did a really nice job keeping us under control,” Saunders said. “I also was happy with how super-aggressive Jeff Miller was, and with how much intensity Jeff and Matt showed in the second half.”
After Miller made 1-of-2 freebies with 13 seconds on the clock, Firelands shooting guard Nicholas Bauer (22 points, 6-of-9 3-pointers) had two chances to tie the game, but both of his wide-open treys rimmed out, much to the relief of the home crowd.
Up to that point, Bauer’s only miss beyond the arc had come on a half-court heave at intermission.
“Down the stretch, we just had too many empty possessions tonight,” said Falcons coach Brett Bartlett, whose team held a 25-16 lead late in the second quarter. “Some were turnovers that ended without a shot at the basket, some wound up in the paint that should have been converted, and we missed way too many free throws.”
Junior small forward Garrett Beck scored eight of his 10 points in the second half for the Bucks, who were 11-of-24 at the foul line. Buckeye only committed 10 turnovers in the 32-minute game — five over the first three periods combined.
Senior center Joseph Hyster collected 11 points, nine rebounds and three assists for Firelands, which was 7-of-15 at the charity stripe. Smith added 10 points, while junior power forward Logan Sittinger had three points and eight boards.
|Saunders also praised the physicality of junior center Chris Vogt, who fouled out coming off the bench.
l Buckeye’s junior varsity was a 42-34 winner. Nathan Polidori scored a game-high 16 points for the Bucks, while Kevin Rollins had 13 for the Falcons.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com
Buckeye 53, Firelands 50
FIRELANDS 13 14 11 12 — 50
BUCKEYE 12 8 19 14 — 53
Firelands — Casey Smith 3-3-10, Logan Sittinger 1-1-3, Joseph Hyster 4-3-11, Cole Sklarek 1-0-2, Nicholas Bauer 8-0-22, Brett Helton 1-0-2, Trevor Davis 0-0-0, James Willbond 0-0-0. TOTALS: 18-7-50.
Buckeye — Garrett Beck 3-3-10, Matt Cox 6-1-13, Jeff Miller 6-1-15, Ryan Grauel 1-3-6, Cory Inman 1-3-5, John Tighe 1-0-2, Mike Bacho 0-0-0, Chris Vogt 0-0-0, Curtis Kinney 1-0-2, Nick Prest 0-0-0. TOTALS: 19-11-53.
3-point goals — Bauer 6, Smith, Miller 2, Beck, Grauel. Rebounds — Firelands 31 (Hyster 9), Buckeye 26 (Miller 9). Assists — Firelands 12 (Hyster, Sklarek 3), Buckeye 13 (Inman 6). Records — Firelands (3-5, 2-3), Buckeye (5-3, 3-2). Junior varsity — Buckeye 42, Firelands 34.