With the outcome up for grabs, the Golden Eagles got down to the task at hand.
Big Walnut, erupting for 24 fourth-quarter points, 14 coming at the foul line, held off Granville 55-50 in opening-round action of the Division II Central District boys basketball tournament Wednesday night at Dublin Scioto High School.
The victory advances Big Walnut (12-9) to the district quarterfinals on Thursday, March 1, when the Golden Eagles will face fourth-seeded Bishop Watterson (15-6) at 7:45 p.m. at Dublin Scioto with a trip to the district semifinals on the line. Watterson defeated Highland (3-18) by a 63-23 score in last night’s second game.
For the first three quarters, the Golden Eagles and Blue Aces exchanged points with neither team holding more than a 3-point edge as Big Walnut led 31-28 heading into the final eight minutes of action.
“Tonight was the beginning of the tournament and we had the postseason jitters,” Big Walnut head coach Eric Myers said. “We weren’t playing relaxed … we were forcing shots and making bad decisions with the basketball.”
Big Walnut (12-9), led by the inside play of 6-foot-5 junior Adam Shaheen, opened the final eight minutes by hitting four of its first six shots to take a 39-31 lead with 5:33 left in the contest. Shaheen counted a lay-in off a feed by 5-11 senior Grant Beam, and counted a rebound basket to fuel the Golden Eagle attack.
Granville (10-10), staying within striking distance of the lead, refused to go away. The Blue Aces closed to within a point of the lead at 47-46 on a three-pointer and a tip-in by 6-foot-2 senior Michael Steensen with 1:19 to play.
The Golden Eagles answered by controlling the basketball and forcing the Blue Aces to foul. Big Walnut hit its last 8 free throws, four by Grant Beam and two each by 5-11 senior Tyler Beam and 6-2 junior Carson Chatterton, to put the game in the win column.
“You could see us start to settle in at the beginning of the third quarter.” Myers said. “We were making good decisions with the basketball and getting the ball into the hands of the right player at the right time … we came together at the right time.”
While Big Walnut made good in 5 of its 7 shots in the fourth, and turned the ball over only three times, the Golden Eagles locked the game up at the foul line where they went 14-for-17 (82.4 percent). Grant Beam was perfect in 8 tries while Tyler Beam went 5-for-5 and Chatterton 2-for-2.
Granville, led by Steensen’s 11 points, tried to keep pace, hitting 8 of 15 shots from the field, including three treys, but was unable to overtake the Golden Eagles.
Grant Beam, who was 10-for-12 at the foul line, led Big Walnut with a game-high 22 points. Shaheen and Tyler Beam followed with 10 points apiece.
Steensen paced the Blue Ace with 15 points while 6-0 junior David Fraley contributed 14 points.