Slipping something new into the game plan can have its advantages and its drawbacks: A fact Buckeye Valley girls basketball coach Landon Fraker knew full well.
The Barons played a solid first quarter, but when Buckeye Valley switched defenses, the visiting North Union Wildcats were able to get their offense off and running en route to a 57-36 Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division victory over the Barons Saturday night at Buckeye Valley High School.
Buckeye Valley (6-9, 2-7 MOAC Red) stayed right with North Union (14-2, 10-0) through the first half of the opening period, getting the first two buckets and holding an 8-6 lead with 3:55 left in the period, but the Wildcats scored four of the final five points of the period to take a 10-9 lead.
“We executed on offense and made the proper rotations on defense, but we tried something different — a little more attacking defense — and we didn’t have that much success with it,” Fraker said. “They’re an experienced team and they’re big, and those are the two things that hurt us. Maybe they weren’t the right team to experiment with.”
North Union then opened the quarter scoring the first 11 points, including nine in a span of just over two minutes, to take a 21-9 lead with four minutes left in the half.
Buckeye Valley answered with a 6-2 run in a span of just under 90 seconds to cut the deficit back to eight, but the Wildcats scored the final nine points of the quarter and held a 32-15 lead at the half.
North Union had little trouble getting shots in the second, and only had slightly more trouble getting them to fall. The Wildcats hit 10 of 14 (71 percent) shots in the second quarter alone, including 9 of 11 (82 percent) in the final 5:43 of the half.
“It’s hard to combat when you shoot that well,” Fraker said. “It’s hard to even answer basket to basket when they do that.”
Buckeye Valley rallied the troops in the third quarter, outscoring the visitors 15-12 and allowing North Union just six shots in the quarter to trim the deficit to 14 points, 44-30, after three.
The Wildcats got off only six shots in the fourth quarter as well, but secured the victory from the foul line. North Union was 0 for 4 from the foul line in the first half, but went 12 for 16 (75 percent) from the line in the last two quarters.
“We knew what they were going to do and we thought we were prepared for it,” Fraker said. “Maybe that experiment falls on my shoulders as coach. Maybe I could have pulled it off a little earlier or perhaps not at all, but that’s what we do as coaches. I thought our kids bounced back after that and played relatively even the rest of the way.”
Senior Lakyn Francisco topped all scorers in the game, finishing with 16 points plus six rebounds and a game-high three blocked shots. Sophomore Michaela Linn worked hard for her rewards, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds, all six on the offensive glass.
“Our girls always play hard,” Fraker said. “We’re still young and still battling some of those things related to inexperience, but I thought Lakyn came ready to play, played well and did a lot of things. We talk about this year being her last go around, and I think she took that to heart and played a great game — one of the better games she’s had all year.”
Junior Taylor Hyatt also added four points, three rebounds and a team-high three steals. Junior Shannon Steinke, sophomore Laura Lemanski and freshman Maddie Oberle also had two points each, Steinke adding four boards and three steals and Oberle three more rebounds.
North Union balanced the offense, getting 14 points from Emily Clark, 11 from Sydney Parrott and 10 apiece from Kenzie Johnson and Mason Jamison. Breanna Nauman also finished with eight points plus a game-high 10 rebounds.