Height is something one cannot counter easily — a fact the Buckeye Valley Barons discovered Thursday evening.
Featuring six players standing 6-foot-4 or taller, the visiting North Union Wildcats had their way on the boards and put the Barons in foul trouble throughout, resulting in the Wildcats’ 52-44 Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division win at Buckeye Valley High School.
Buckeye Valley (1-2, 0-1 MOAC Red) had trouble matching up with the North Union (3-0, 1-0) trees, but was still able to stay close until the final quarter. The Barons did lose all four quarters, but never by more than three points.
Still, North Union used its rebounding to keep the Barons from getting second chances, pulling down 34 boards overall and 11 on the offensive glass while Buckeye Valley finished with just 20 and six offensive rebounds. The Wildcats didn’t need much help on second chances, as 42 of their 52 points came on the first shot of their possessions.
The Barons opened strong, taking a 7-5 lead early and rebounding to recapture the advantage at 12-10, but the Wildcats scored seven of the final nine points of the quarter for a 17-14 lead after one.
North Union pushed the lead to five early in the second quarter, but Buckeye Valley tied the game at 19-all on a three-point play by sophomore Jesse Tomlinson, knotted the score again on a fast break layup by sophomore Mitch Rotondo, and took the lead 24-23 when Rotondo drained a three with 3:33 left before halftime.
North Union took the lead back shortly after on a Brandon Allen layup, the first points of a 5-0 Wildcat run that ended the second half and put Buckeye Valley down 28-24.
The Barons again came out with a strong start in the second half, getting back-to-back three-pointers from junior Devin Cramer to give the hosts a 30-28 lead two minutes in, but missed their next five shots from the floor while the Wildcats scored the next eight points to take a 36-30 lead — one, it turned out, they would not give back.
That 8-0 North Union run was just part of a 16-4 Wildcat tear that extended well into the fourth quarter and gave the visitors a 44-34 lead with three minutes left. The Barons cut the lead back to six on back-to-back threes from seniors Brad Edmonds and Eric Johnson, but North Union drained all six of its foul shots in the last 1:27 of the game to secure the win.
Tomlinson topped all scorers with 18 points, including one three, and had five rebounds and two assists for the Barons. Rotondo had eight points including a pair of treys, Cramer finished with six points on his two triples, while Edmonds and Johnson added a three and five points each, Johnson also adding five boards and two assists.
Allen topped the Wildcats with 17 points including a three, while Austin Terrill had nine points. Nate Curts and Hayden Stofcheck added seven points apiece, Curts hauling down a game-high eight rebounds and Stofcheck handing out a game-leading four assists.