February 26, 2012
PLAIN CITY — When you see a first half boys tournament basketball score of 16-11, you’d think it was from the days when they nailed peach baskets to the walls.
Thankfully, the second half of Saturday’s Hayes-Olentangy matchup was much more lively, as the Pacers pulled to within one point only to see the Braves hit three consecutive threes and finish with a 53-40 victory in a Division I Sectional Semifinal at Jonathan Alder High School.
Neither team lit up the scoreboard in the first half. Olentangy (11-10) hit just 7 of 26 (27 percent) shots in the first half while Hayes (10-11) was 5 of 19 (26 percent) in the same span, but the Braves had four more offensive rebounds and six fewer turnovers.
“I thought we kept our poise, even through the tough times,” Olentangy coach Chris Kelly said. “I felt like we had 100 good looks, but we just couldn’t put it in the basket, and it became a struggle, but we talked before the game about how defense and rebounding would win it for us even if we had a bad shooting night, and that was the key.”
But despite scoring just four points in the first quarter and seven in the second, the Pacers began to explode in the second half, cutting a 10-point deficit in the third quarter down to two in a span of just over three minutes.
“I couldn’t be more proud of how hard our kids played,” Hayes coach Jordan Blackburn said. “I think they represented our community extremely well tonight. Overall, with what these kids have endured this season and how they’ve responded to it, it’s one of the best feelings I’ve had as a coach. I’m really proud of these guys.”
The play of junior guard Mike Wells was indicative of Hayes’ night. Wells was held scoreless through the first 12:28 of the game, thanks in large part to a frustratingly stifling Olentangy defense that stuck to him like glue.
“We started off with the game plan of Mike penetrating, getting some other guys in the flow or taking the shot when he had it,” Blackburn said. “Olentangy’s defense was rushing him and chasing him, and there were several passes he made in the first two quarters that probably should have turned into points.”
But Wells scored all seven of Hayes’ points in the second period, 14 of the Pacers’ 21 in the third quarter, and finished with a game-high 24 points.
“I thought we played great defense on him, but that’s a credit to him to still get his points,” Kelly said. “He’s an unbelievable player, but it was obvious we wanted to wear him down and cover him tight the whole game.”
Hayes would trim the lead to one on a Wells three-point play, sliced a five-point lead back to 40-38 with a three-pointer from sophomore Theoun Sorn, and had the ball with a chance to at least tie the game.
A turnover derailed that chance, and Olentangy knocked down its three straight treys, two from senior Jordan Gingery with one from junior Seth Clark in between, giving the Braves a 49-38 lead with just over three minutes left. Hayes junior Griffin Kinney hit a jumper shortly after, but the Pacers would get no closer.
“That’s a credit to the kids,” Kelly said. “We went to our spread game thinking we might be able to get some layups, but it also opened up wide open spot-up threes. I think we’re a good shooting team and yet it didn’t look like it for three and a half quarters, but we had some pressure shots late and the kids knocked them down.”
“We had a whole bunch of guys in foul trouble in the third and fourth quarters, and I didn’t think we guarded the ball as well as we had up to that point in the game,” Blackburn said. “When guys get beat, we help, and when we helped, they got some kick-out threes. Give credit to Olentangy. They knocked down those threes.”
Gingery had four threes in the game and finished with 12 points to lead a very balanced Olentangy attack. Clark and junior Erik Brandt had nine points each, with Clark adding two more triples. Seniors Ryan Shaffer, Eric MacKay and Stephen Walczak also added six points each.
Sorn knocked down a pair of threes and finished with eight points, helping the Pacers trim their deficit. Kinney and sophomore Gaige Linville also finished with four points apiece.