Buckeye Valley coach Andy Gast knows very well just how hot junior wing Devin Cramer can get when he’s on, and in the fourth quarter of the Barons’ non-league game against Olentangy Tuesday night, Cramer showed everyone.
The Buckeye Valley junior fueled a blistering fourth quarter, hitting six three-point goals in the period, and sophomore guard Jesse Tomlinson buried a jumper in the paint with five seconds to play to give the Barons a 63-61 victory over the Braves at Buckeye Valley High School.
“I really thought, even in the first half, we had some good looks,” Gast said. “We just didn’t shoot a very high percentage, but I told the kids at halftime we were getting the looks, and they ran a lot of zone, so we needed to keep attacking their zone pressure and put them in when they were open. We had some guys catch fire and I was proud of our kids’ efforts, I really was.”
“It really was a back-and-forth game with two teams going extremely hard,” Olentangy coach Chris Kelly said. “It was a really good high school basketball game, but unfortunately on our end, we didn’t lock down on defense quite enough when we needed to and if the other team is shooting well, you’ve got to make enough quality shots to win.”
Buckeye Valley (9-9) worked tirelessly on improving its hustle after dropping a tough 52-47 decision to River Valley a week ago, and Tuesday night, the Barons were relentless, hustling after loose balls, sprinting in transition defense and diving on the floor.
“I wasn’t pleased with our last game against River Valley,” Gast said. “I thought we were out-scrapped, so in our last two practices, we really focused on getting to loose balls and scrapping, and I thought that really helped us tonight because Olentangy has some nice athletes. I thought we battled very hard.”
A cold spell in the third quarter cost Olentangy (8-12) the lead, but the Braves shot the ball fairly well all evening long, despite going 10 for 28 (36 percent) in the second and third periods, allowing Buckeye Valley to stay close.
“I felt like we could push the ball all night, but when you get shots, you have to knock them down,” Kelly said. “We had a lot of good looks all night long and scored enough points, but I felt we left a lot of empty possessions with shots we should have made and turnovers we shouldn’t have made.”
Olentangy used a 9-0 run in the opening quarter to take a 13-9 lead, and after the Barons rallied to take a 21-20 lead with 3:43 left in the half, Olentangy finished by scoring the final seven points of the quarter, taking a 27-21 edge at the break.
But in the third, the combination of Olentangy missed shots and Buckeye Valley defense helped the Barons get confidence and get the lead. Buckeye Valley clamped down on its attack, forcing four turnovers in the period, and Olentangy hit just two of its first 11 shots from the floor.
The result was a 18-6 run in those first seven minutes, putting the Barons up 39-33 with a minute to play in the third quarter.
“That’s something we work on day in and day out in practice,” Gast said. “We tell our kids if we play good defense then we’re going to be in every game. If you look at our scores this year, we’ve done that because of our defense, and it certainly helped us at the end tonight.”
Olentangy used three solid possessions in the final 45 seconds of the third to tie the game at 39 after three quarters. Then came one of the wildest fourth quarters in Delaware County this season — one that saw both teams combine for 46 points and go 18 of 27 from the floor.
The Braves took a one-point lead twice early in the quarter and used a 7-0 run to take a 58-56 lead with three minutes left in the period, but Buckeye Valley stuck close behind the shooting of Cramer, who went 6 for 6 from three-point range in the final period, all from the right corner, and scored 18 of the 24 Buckeye Valley points in the period.
“We’re getting better every day against zone defenses,” Gast said. “Our kids are learning how to find those gaps, and Devin got his feet set. When he does that, he can shoot it in. He had a great shooting night.”
“If someone gets really hot like he did, it’s going to cost you in the long run,” Kelly said. “Our transition defense wasn’t very good at times, and even when we were man-to-man, we let him get off screens and get open. You can’t do that when someone is as hot as he was. We just didn’t finish defensively the way we need to.”
The Barons led 47-43 early in the period and 56-51 before Olentangy’s 7-0 tear, but Cramer’s final trey of the quarter gave Buckeye Valley a 59-58 edge with 2:38 to go.
Olentangy sophomore post Obi Anunike tied the game with a free throw with 1:49 left, and after a Tomlinson jumper in the paint gave the lead back to Buckeye Valley, sophomore guard Seth O’Neal drove into the key and hit a jumper to tie the score at 61 with 50 seconds left.
The Barons held for the last shot, and Tomlinson took the ball again, driving from the right side to the foul line and hitting a jumper with five seconds to go. After a time out, Olentangy junior guard Jimmy Gundling hauled in a pass from the back court and dribbled to the left side before firing up a last-ditch three attempt, which missed the mark.
Cramer’s 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the floor topped all scorers. Junior guard Luke Davis had eight points in the third quarter and finished with 16 for the game while adding seven rebounds, and sophomore wing Mitch Rotondo added five points in the third, closing with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists.
Tomlinson had just six points, but all came in the final period, including the Barons’ last four points of the game, while adding game highs with five assists and three steals. Senior wing Brad Edmonds also had six points on two threes, senior post Eric Johnson had four points, five assists and a team-leading 10 rebounds, and senior wing Nate Cox finished with two points.
Gundling led the Braves with 17 points, including a three-pointer, while adding four boards, two assists and two steals. O’Neal followed with 14 points and five rebounds, adding a team-high four assists, junior wing Ryan Sieve had 11 points with a trey along with five boards, and Anunike added eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Junior guard Andrew Kaylor had five points while junior Matt Forsythe and sophomore Christian Mazzeo had three points each, Forsythe hitting one three-pointer.