Sophomore Dylan Herbert summed up the Buckeye Valley boys basketball season pretty well after Saturday night’s 42-29 MOAC win over visiting Marion Harding.
“Offense has never been a problem with us … we’ve always been able to move the ball well,” he said. “Now that our defense has stepped up we’re starting to win games.”
The Barons (6-13, 4-8) held the Presidents to 10 points or fewer in every quarter, including three in the fourth.
“When we’ve been successful this year we’ve played tough, really good defense, and we’ve been able to rebound well. We were able to do that again (Saturday night),” BV coach Andy Gast said.
Layne Stephens’ basket gave Harding a brief 7-6 lead midway through the first quarter.
Herbert rebounded a Luke Lucas missed three and put it back on BV’s next possession to give the Barons a lead they never relinquished.
The Herbert basket started a 21-7 rally that ballooned the lead to 13. Herbert scored seven points, Austin Richard added six and Elijah Jackson chipped in another four to lead the way.
DeVon Fraker fed Kwave Booker for a basket to cut Harding’s deficit to 27-16 at the break.
Deante Smith opened the third with a basket for the Presidents, but BV scored the next eight to push it to 35-18 midway through the period and Harding never got within 10 again.
BV’s only points in the fourth came on a Herbert and-one, but its defense was equally stout, holding the Presidents to just three points as well.
“I was kind of upset in the fourth quarter … we had a lead and we kind of settled for some threes,” Gast said.
Stokey and Richard each chipped in seven points with Stokey pulling down a game-high nine rebounds.
“Max pulls down a lot of boards,” Gast said. “That’s a huge advantage when you don’t give the other team second shots. That’s been a really big adjustment for us is that we’ve gotten him more minutes in the lineup and it’s really helped our rebounding.”
It’s the third win in four games for BV, equaling its win total over the first 15 games, and the common denominator is defense.
The Barons held their opponents to fewer than 45 points in each of those three victories – a sure sign of improvement from their first 15 games where opponents scored 60 points or more 10 times.
“Our kids are getting better, so that’s what you always want as a coach,” Gast said. “Our kids come to practice every day and practice hard … nobody’s quit. That’s why I think we’ve been successful here these last couple weeks of the season.”
Herbert, meanwhile, has taken on the role of primary scorer for the Barons after last year’s leader Ethan Crawford was injured five minutes into the season. Herbert has scored in double figures in all but two of BV’s games.
“For only (being) a sophomore – he’s really shifty,” Gast said. “We want the ball in his hands as much as possible. With Ethan hurt he’s forced to be in great shape and play a lot of minutes for us. He’s done a great job this year. For only being a sophomore … he’s one of the better players in our league for sure.”
Fraker had nine points to lead the Presidents (5-12, 3-9).
BV continues league play at home against North Union Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
“We’ve got three games left and, in my opinion, they’re all winnable games,” Gast said. “But, we’ve gotta come out and compete.”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.