It’s a very simple concept: Turnovers are lost chances. Lose to many chances, you’ll likely lose the game.
The Big Walnut Golden Eagles’ mistakes in the final two and a half minutes proved very costly, and the Orange Pioneers broke a late tie with four free throws in the final 28 seconds for a thrilling 45-41 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division victory Tuesday night at Orange High School.
Coming off a close loss last Friday in Mount Vernon, Orange (10-3, 7-2 OCC Capital) needed the win to stay alive in the league hunt, and down the stretch, the Pioneers were able to convert.
“Down the stretch, I told our guys there’s something about this place where we just know how to win these kinds of games,” Orange coach John Betz said. “We were still stinging from the Mount Vernon loss, but down the stretch all 14 on our bench, whether they were on the floor or not, believed we were going to win. That speaks volumes about our kids.”
Big Walnut (6-7, 4-5) was never out of anything. The Golden Eagles opened with a flourish, taking a 10-7 lead after one quarter and led by a point as late as the 2:44 mark of the second.
“I’m super proud of the guys in our locker room,” Big Walnut coach Eric Myers said. “We have some guys who are pretty beaten up and guys who logged a lot of minutes on the court, but they continue to come back each day and never complain.”
“Big Walnut is a tough match up,” Betz said. “Our kids like to play in space and maybe be a little more athletic, but they play such tough, hard, in-your-face defense. I told our staff and the kids Big Walnut is not a match up that suits us well, and when you get a win against a team like that, you’ve done something.”
Big Walnut was also fortunate to have senior Grant Beam in the starting lineup. Myers held off starting the senior until just before the lineups were due, but Beam showed his leadership qualities, playing through pain and leading the Golden Eagles with 13 points.
“We weren’t even sure if Grant was going to be able to go until about 10 minutes before game time,” Myers said. “He told me he’d give it a shot, and not only did he play through the pain, he had a great performance. That was very gutsy on his part.”
Big Walnut trailed in every quarter after the first, but tied the game at 33 with just under a minute left in the third, then took a short-lived 39-38 lead on a layup from Beam. Matt Kurelic’s three-pointer shortly after gave the lead back to Orange, but Seth Wandling hit a layup, tying the score at 41 with 4:29 left. No one scored again until the final seconds.
The Golden Eagles’ turnovers didn’t haunt them until the end. In fact, Big Walnut had just four turnovers in the final quarter, but three came in those final moments, including a five-second call forced by Orange’s Brandon Blake with 28.5 seconds left.
“We stagnated on the offensive end and our turnovers in the fourth quarter hurt us,” Myers said. “We had 19 turnovers on the night, and that’s uncharacteristic of us. We were where we wanted to be, but we didn’t take care of the basketball.”
“Brandon made a great defensive play getting that five count,” Betz said. “His defense, and for that matter, everyone’s defense, was unbelievable tonight. When we had to get a stop, we got them. It’s as simple as that.”
Late in the game, the Pioneers got what they needed from Nick Deitsch, who hit four consecutive free throws in the final 13 seconds to seal the win.
“We have to have Nick and we needed him to knock down those free throws, which I knew he would,” Betz said. “He’s going to make shots. It’s just a matter of time.”
“Credit to Orange,” Myers said. “They’re a great team. They’re hard to defend and they have so many players who can shoot the ball.”
Orange’s Andy Bosley led all scorers with 15 while Deitsch finished the night with 11 points. Kurelic and Tyler Dillard had six points each.
Zach Laughman followed Beam with nine points for Big Walnut, all on a trio of three-point goals. Adam Sheehan had the Golden Eagles’ only other three and finished with seven points while Wandling closed with six points.