WESTFIELD TWP. — The Keystone boys basketball team had two players come up extremely big Tuesday night with 6-foot-4 junior C.J. Conrad severely limited by a bruised thigh.
Cloverleaf only had one player make a huge impact with guard Adam Podolak saddled by foul trouble.
It added up to a 67-58 victory for the Wildcats in non-league action.
Conrad, the top-ranked tight end in Ohio according to scout.com, took an inadvertent knee to the thigh just 37 seconds into the game and didn’t play the rest of the first half. He saw significant minutes in the second half, but played with a noticeable limp while finishing with two points and six rebounds.
It didn’t hamper Keystone (1-1), which finished 9-14 last season, because senior Matt Bastock poured in a game-high 27 points and grabbed a team-high eight boards, while sophomore guard Austin Conrad, C.J.’s younger brother, finished with 17 points, three rebounds and a team-high four assists.
Twelve of the younger Conrad’s points came in the fourth quarter, when Keystone staved off a furious rally from a Cloverleaf (0-2) team that was 6-17 a season ago.
“He’s been around this program since he was this big,” said Wildcats coach Jeff Holzhauer, placing his hand about 2½ feet off the ground. “He’s been waiting for this his entire life. He wants the ball in big situations.”
Bastock was just as good, scoring 16 points in the first quarter and 19 in the first 9:02, nine coming on a trio of 3-pointers. The 6-3 senior had the first 13 points in a 16-0 run that put Keystone up 19-4 late in the first period.
“We knew he was a good shooter,” Cloverleaf coach Marty Ryan said. “We just didn’t play good defense.”
The Colts played the Wildcats even when the 6-foot Podolak (13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals) was on the floor. Problem was, he played only about half the game due to foul trouble and eventually exited for good with 3:46 remaining.
At that point, the Colts were only down four — they got within three moments later — but the Wildcats outscored them 11-6 once Podolak was gone for good.
“He’s a very aggressive player,” Ryan said. “He always gives 100 percent out there, but sometimes he gets fouls that aren’t good. That’s something he’s working at.”
Compounding Cloverleaf’s problems, only 6-5 junior center Dillon Mullins, who finished with a team-high 16 points and game-high 14 rebounds, came up real big in Podolak’s absence.
Junior small forward Damian Tripp added 10 points and four rebounds for Cloverleaf, while senior guard Ryan O’Callaghan and junior power forward Connor Ploucha had seven points apiece, but the Colts couldn’t complete their comeback due to poor shooting and a plethora of turnovers.
“It’s hard to get out of a big hole,” Ryan said. “But take away the first part of the game and I thought we played well.”
Down 25-10 with 6:58 to go in the second period after Bastock’s third and final 3-pointer of the night, the Colts went on a 17-5 run to pull within 27-23 with 1:17 remaining in the half.
Keystone regrouped and went back up 11 early in the third quarter before Cloverleaf made one last push. The Colts got within 56-53 when Mullins split a pair of free throws with 3:12 remaining, but a missed 3-pointer and several turnovers allowed the Wildcats to score the next eight points.
“Getting that first win, who cares how you get it?” Holzhauer said. “Let’s just get it. I was very happy we settled down.”
Bastock started the game-deciding run with a hoop inside and Austin Conrad scored the next six on a drive and four free throws.
“When he has confidence, (Bastock) is a very good player,” Holzhauer said. “He used to be just a shooter, but now he attacks the rim, pulls up and rebounds. He’s a much more well-rounded player than last year.”
In a junior varsity game that featured no stalling, Keystone emerged with a 29-22 victory. Michael Martin had 11 points for the Colts and Turner Campbell had eight for the Wildcats.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him in Twitter @RickNoland.