YORK TWP. — It’s time to start taking the Buckeye boys basketball team seriously.
Garrett Beck made four free throws and snared a defensive rebounded in the final 9 seconds Monday, powering the Bucks past old-time Medina County rival Highland 66-63 in non-league play.
Buckeye (7-1), which is off to its best start in school history, snapped a 12-game losing streak against the Hornets (5-3) that dated to Dec. 27, 2000.
Many doubted the early Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division kingpin could hang with the Suburban League tri-leader.
No one realized that better than Buckeye.
“This was one where we really needed to show we’re a good team,” Beck said. “Every other game we should have won, so it means a lot to get this win.
“Our (80-70) loss to (Highland) last year really brought us down. It pumped us up to win this game. We kept thinking about that loss and how much they disrespected us.”
Beck, the county’s second-leading scorer at 20.6 points per game entering the night, finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds despite being effectively face-guarded by Alex Wood. Bucks power forward Jeff Miller added 19 points and nine rebounds, free-wheeling shooting guard John Tighe had 12 points and four assists and center Chris Vogt battled foul trouble to finish with nine points, five rebounds and five assists.
The Hornets were paced by 20 points from point guard Tanner Houska and 18 points and 13 rebounds from center Brogan Scott. The duo scored 15 of Highland’s 20 fourth-quarter points, but Scott missed two free throws with his team trailing 64-63 and 3.8 seconds left.
Neither team led by more than five points due in large part to an inordinate amount of close-range misfires. Otherwise, it was a highly entertaining game from start to finish as the teams combined to shoot 51-for-108 (.472) from the floor and 21-for-32 (.656) from the line while committing only 20 turnovers.
“Buckeye’s won a lot of games,” Houska said. “They have a lot of confidence in themselves and they play very well as a team. They move the ball really well.
“(The game was close) because both teams missed a lot of opportunities. We were missing a lot of bunnies inside and they were missing a lot of shots inside as well.”
Once Tighe hit a pull-up 3-pointer in transition to tie the game and Miller found Vogt inside to make it 62-60 Buckeye, things really got interesting.
Realizing Vogt had four fouls, Houska attacked the rim, completed a three-point play and fouled out Vogt in the process. That set up the final 25.8 seconds, which had a little bit of everything.
Buckeye called timeout with 18.2 seconds remaining, giving way for Beck’s hotly contested floater in the lane to miss but deflect off a Highland player out of bounds.
After two more timeouts, the Hornets game-planned for an inbounds play to Miller — the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder had two inches and at least 50 pounds on counterpart Alec Withers (7 points, 4 rebounds) — and Beck got the ball from Cory Inman on a curl, launched another floater and was fouled on the arm by Wood.
Beck’s first free throw hit back rim then rattled in. He swished the next to give Buckeye a 64-63 advantage.
Houska drove the lane at the other end and dished to Scott, who was fouled by Miller while pinned underneath the rim. Both of Scott’s free throws went begging, Beck grabbed the rebound and made two more free throws.
Once Scott airmailed the backboard from half court as time expired, Buckeye’s student section stormed the court decked out in America-themed clothing.
“I live for those moments,” Beck said.
Buckeye put itself in position to win by handling Highland’s full-court pressure (9 turnovers) and patiently working the ball in to Miller, who had 10 first-half points. Beck helped maintain an even rebound count with seven boards in the first 16 minutes.
The Bucks trailed 30-25 at halftime, but got things going in the third quarter by shooting 8-for-14 with seven different players nailing a field goal. A layup by backup Nate Polidori gave them a 43-38 lead late in the period.
After the Hornets got within two, Tighe hit Buckeye’s first 3-pointer of the game to put the Bucks ahead 48-43 with 6:46 to go. Vogt scored on a putback to keep the spread at five (50-45) until Scott and Houska scored 11 of the game’s next 18 points to give Highland a 58-55 advantage, but Inman kept the Bucks within punching range with a 3-pointer from the corner.
What the Hornets couldn’t do was make one more key play in the closing minute, allowing Buckeye to take advantage and pull off the mild upset.
“This really shows we’re here to compete this year,” Miller said. “It really sets the tone for our league as well.
“We knew we wanted this game more than anything else.”
Wadsworth’s Kyle Prunty and Peyton Booth and Cloverleaf’s Dillon Mullins, Braedon Hansen and Troy Kapeluck were among Medina County players spotted in the stands.
• Kyle Marcus had nine points as Highland’s junior varsity won 48-42. Bruce Barnby had nine for Buckeye.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.