It was “PLB Night” for the Golden Eagles’ boys basketball team.
Big Walnut, taking the floor without the services of injured starting guard Michael Buckles, scored an emotional 50-47 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division victory over visiting Mount Vernon Friday night in Sunbury.
“This was ‘Play Like BuckNight,’” Golden Eagle head coach Eric Myers said after Big Walnut held off a hard-charging Mount Vernon team down the stretch. “Our guys went out and jumped to an early first-quarter lead and we never trailed in the contest … like Michael, they showed determination and went out and got the job done.”
Buckles, the Golden Eagles’ leader on the floor, suffered a broken nose in last Friday’s 49-48 OCC loss at Delaware Hayes, a fracture that required surgery which will keep him out of action for an undetermined amount of time. With the win, the Golden Eagles gained a split of the regular-season series with the Yellow Jackets after dropping a 60-49 decision on Dec. 20 at Mount Vernon.
Big Walnut (8-9, 3-7 OCC) hit the floor scoring against the rival Yellow Jackets as the Golden Eagles buried five of six 3-point attempts to take a 17-5 lead with 2:41 left in the opening period. Senior Nick Herbert led the BW barrage with three treys while senior Chase LaVeer counted a pair of threes.
“We came out ready to play,” Myers said after watching his club go 7 for 12 from the field, including 5 for 6 from behind the arc. “We were moving the ball well and finding the open shot.”
Mount Vernon (7-11, 4-7 OCC) closed the quarter with three unanswered treys by junior guard Alex Arck to close the gap to five at 19-14 going into the second period.
The second eight minutes turned into a defensive struggle that saw Big Walnut outscore the Yellow Jackets 8-5 to take a 27-19 lead into the intermission thanks to junior Matt Tarney’s bucket at the buzzer.
Both teams turned up their intensity in the second half. Mount Vernon opened the third quarter with a 13-8 run led by 6-foot-2 sophomore post Chastin Peppers, who scored the Jackets’ first 8 points of the half. They eventually to closed to within three of the lead at 35-32 on 6-3 junior Tyler Galbraith’s 3-point play with :22 left in the period. The Golden Eagles then got their second buzzer-beater of the contest on sophomore Hayden Bowmar’s layin to take a 38-34 lead in the final quarter.
The fourth quarter turned into a nail-biter. Mount Vernon closed to within a point of the lead three times, the last at 43-42 on Arck’s trey with 3:53 to play, before tying the game at 45-45 on senior guard Alex Glibert’s 3-pointer with 2:44 showing on the clock.
The Golden Eagles, who had opened up a 4-point, 43-39 lead on sophomore Josh Seabrook’s 3-pointer — BW’s only field goal of the quarter — prior to Glibert’s trey, went to work at the foul line. The Golden Eagles converted five of eight free throws over the final 2:30 with Herbert sealing the win with two clutch free throws with .6 seconds remaining.
“We maintained our composure and hit our free throws … we never lost our focus down the stretch,” Myers said, adding, “we played like Buck.”
Led by Herbert’s 15 points on three treys and 6 free throws, three Golden Eagles scored in double figures. Logan Boyd followed with 13 and LaVeer with 10 points. Matt Tarney came off the bench to chip in 8 points.