The Big Walnut Golden Eagles had a solid game plan to combat the Hayes Pacers Tuesday night, but needed a little more offense on their own side.
The Golden Eagles controlled the tempo, but the Pacers used timely buckets and an imposing interior defense to slip by the visitors 41-37 in Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division play at Hayes High School.
“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked,” Hayes coach Jordan Blackburn said. “We didn’t meet our own standards, but we were able to grind out a win against a tough team. Big Walnut has tough kids, and (Big Walnut) coach (Eric) Myers is doing a good job. They were a handful tonight.”
“We were stagnant on offense, but we went on the road in a tough Capital Division, held a team to 41 points and limited our turnovers,” Myers said. “I don’t have any issues with our kids’ efforts tonight. Hayes has a nice ball team.”
Hayes (6-1, 3-1 OCC Capital) had difficulty getting points against a solid Big Walnut (2-2, 2-2) defense and an offense that slowed the game down in an effort to hold down Pacers junior point guard Mike Wells.
“Controlling that tempo is sometimes a catch-22,” Myers said. “You sometimes don’t get into a rhythm offensively, but Mike Wells is just a heck of a player, and with the numbers he’s been putting up over the last couple of weeks, we felt we had to slow him down and get some things going offensively.”
But while Big Walnut kept the Hayes offense down, the Golden Eagles themselves had trouble getting their offense going, especially on the inside, where Hayes senior post Jake Bosiokovic stymied much of the Big Walnut inside game with a game-high nine blocks plus four steals.
“He does a good job of getting his hands up without making body contact,” Blackburn said. “There were several times tonight when he did that. He’s our second line of defense, and he covered for some of our mistakes. That’s what you expect out of your senior captain.”
Big Walnut trailed 7-4 after the opening quarter, but led 17-13 at the half and looked to extend the lead in the third quarter.
Hayes scored the first six points of the third and took a 19-17 edge, only to see Big Walnut rally back for a 25-22 lead with a minute left in the period, only to see Wells drill a three-pointer at the third quarter horn to tie the game at 25-all.
The Pacers then opened the fourth quarter on a 7-2 run to take a 32-27 lead with six minutes left.
“The came out in the third quarter and tied the game up right off the bat,” Myers said. “Everyone knows you need to make a run and then open it up a bit going to the second half, but then they hit that three right at the end of the third quarter and we didn’t respond to that.”
Senior Zach Parsons was a huge part of the final period for the Pacers, hauling down three critical rebounds in the first half of the period.
“I think we wouldn’t have won the game without Zack tonight,” Blackburn said. “They were playing him strictly as a shooter, and he’s a quick kid. We’re trying to foster more confidence in him every day because he’s one of our best players, and tonight, he helped us win the game.”
Big Walnut clawed back to within two points twice in the final two and a half minutes, but Hayes went 5 of 6 from the free throw stripe in the last 1:29 to clinch things.
“We went 10 of 13 from the foul line in the third and fourth quarters,” Blackburn said. “That’s something that will win you some close ballgames.”
Wells still topped all scorers with 17 points while Parsons added nine points and a team-high seven rebounds. Bosiokovic added six points and four rebounds to his totals while sophomore Jante Wright had five points.
Grant and Tyler Beam combined for 20 of the 37 Big Walnut points, Grant finishing with 11 points and Tyler closing with nine on the night. Adam Shaheen added five points plus a game-high eight rebounds for the Golden Eagles.