Coach Matt Saunders’ Buckeye boys basketball team has proved it can score. The balanced Bucks (6-3, 4-2) have three double-digit scorers in Garrett Beck (13.6 ppg), Matt Cox (13.4) and Jeff Miller (11.1) and games of 83, 79 and 70 points to their credit.
Over the past three-plus weeks, they’ve also proved that if they hold even a slim lead after three quarters, the game’s pretty much over.
After surrendering a fourth-quarter lead in a 63-59 loss to Lutheran West, Buckeye has won four of its last five. The average win margin during the run has been just 6.5 points.
The reason the Bucks keep pulling out victories is rather simple: They’ve played great in the second half, and specifically in the fourth quarter.
Against Wellington on Dec. 18, senior forward Cox scored 16 second-half points in what ended up a 79-67 victory. Against Smithville at the College of Wooster on Dec. 22, implementing a 2-3 zone was the difference in a 56-49 decision.
The last two games have been all about free throws. Cory Inman and Miller canned four unanswered in the final 76 seconds of a 53-50 victory over Firelands, and Brookside’s valiant comeback fell short when Inman made two free throws with 22.4 seconds left to preserve a 49-46 triumph.
The recent hot streak has moved the Bucks into a tie atop the Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division with Wellington (4-6, 4-2), which was alone in first until losing to Firelands 53-51 on Tuesday. It was the Dukes’ fourth one-possession loss in their last five games.
While there’s a long way to go — the PAC plays one of the longest league schedules in Ohio with 16 games — Buckeye is in position for its second title in the past three seasons.
Black River (0-9, 0-6)
Junior Stephen Zumack is averaging a team-high 11.0 points since missing the 53-46 loss to Mapleton. The forward leads the team with 1.3 assists per game on the season.
l The Pirates have been outscored 19.1-8.7 in third quarters.
Brunswick (5-7, 0-3)
Ryan Badowski will miss tonight’s game against Strongsville (1-10, 0-3) with a hip injury. There is no timeline for his return. The All-Gazette point guard ranks eighth in the 18-team Northeast Ohio Conference with a 17.4 scoring average.
l Junior Zach Parker is averaging 15.0 points over the past three games. The small forward also has 10 3-pointers over the span.
l Traditional rival Strongsville has fallen on hard times since the graduation of current Iowa forward Aaron White, Ray Hamilton and Gurjeet Gill. The Mustangs have lost 28 of their last 34 games.
Buckeye (6-3, 4-2)
Starters Beck, Cox, Miller, Inman and Ryan Grauel have scored 206 of the Bucks’ 228 points (90.4 percent) over the past four games.
l Buckeye’s next three opponents — Keystone (4-5), Cloverleaf (2-9) and Black River (0-9) — have a combined 6-23 record (.207).
l Fun fact: Miller’s father, Jeff, and uncle, Bob, were All-Gazette centers for Buckeye. Jeff earned the award in 1980, while Bob was named in 1963 and ’64.
Cloverleaf (2-9, 0-6)
Senior forward Brandt Buckholz is on a mini-hot streak with 16 points and 10 rebounds over the past two games.
l Senior Bishop Woodall and junior Ryan O’Callaghan received their first varsity starts against Copley.
l The Colts, who have lost 31 straight Suburban League games, host Tallmadge tonight. The Blue Devils (1-9, 1-5) are averaging just 39.0 points over their last seven games. Sophomore forward Andrew Francesconi leads the team with a 14.6 scoring average.
Highland (7-4, 3-3)
Point guard Tanner Houska is averaging 17.0 points and 7.3 assists over the past three games. The sophomore also has canned 5.7 free throws during the stretch.
l Averaging 65.0 points at the regular season’s midway point, the Hornets are on pace for their best offensive season since 1998-99 (65.9), when they won the SL title.
l Brogan Scott’s 17.1 scoring is average is on pace to be the highest by a Highland sophomore since Medina County all-time leading scorer Rob Wininger put up 20.1 in 1990-91.
Medina (5-5, 1-2)
Following tonight’s game against Shaker Heights (9-2, 3-0), considered by many the best team in Northeast Ohio, the Bees’ schedule relaxes with games against Normandy (Monday; 1-7), Strongsville (Jan. 18; 1-10), Wadsworth (Jan. 22; 4-5), Solon (Jan. 25; 4-6) and Bowling Green (Feb. 2; 4-7). Those five teams have a combined 14-35 record (.286).
l Junior power forward Branden Wilkins is averaging 11.3 rebounds over the past three games.
Wadsworth (4-5, 4-2)
Kyle Prunty’s monster 33-point, 20-rebound game only heightened a season-long trend. The junior post is averaging 19.3 points and 13.0 rebounds in four victories.
l The frontline of Prunty, Nathan Pound and Austin White has scored 346 of the team’s 528 points (65.5 percent).
l With a 16.6 scoring average, White is on pace to become the first sophomore to lead Wadsworth in the category since center Doug Bell (15.8) in 1999-2000.
l Six of the Grizzlies’ next eight games are on the road, where they are 3-0 this season.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.