The Big Walnut boys basketball team played its best game of the season Friday night as it beat Delaware Hayes 53-40 in Sunbury.
The Golden Eagles (7-7, 4-4) are back at .500 and have now won four of their last five games after the signature win. With the loss, Hayes (10-5, 3-4) is sitting at third in the OCC-Capital behind Westerville South and Westerville North.
“We are starting to believe in ourselves at the end of games,” Big Walnut coach Brett Bartlett said. “We lost a lot of close games early in the year. We can finally say we won some now, it’s a good feeling.”
The BW defense had the Pacers stifled from the opening tip. Nothing came easy for Hayes as BW did a very effective job of limiting the Pacer offense by keying on sophomore guard Jesse Burris. The strategy was to constantly double Burris and try to let others beat them … and the plan worked perfectly.
“We held Burris to 18 points, many of them came off of transition steals … I thought our half court defense was the best it’s ever been,” Bartlett said.
Big Walnut senior center Will Baden stuffed the stat sheet in the first quarter, finishing with three points, two emphatic blocks and two offensive rebounds in less than five minutes of action. He was a force in the paint on offense and defense throughout the game. The Golden Eagles led 9-4 after one.
Hayes finally got going early in the second quarter. The Pacers hit two threes and were able to tie the game up at 14, but Baden closed out the half with a powerful two-handed slam as time expired, giving the Eagles a 16-14 lead going into the locker room.
Both teams came out of the half playing a bit sloppy on offense. BW was able to expand its lead to 23-18, then Burris got a steal and hit a three to make it a two-point game. The Eagles led 27-26 after three.
Hayes’ uncharacteristic offensive struggles continued in the fourth quarter and it ended up being its downfall. The Eagles scored the first six points in the last quarter and were in full control of the game midway through it.
“We didn’t execute well in spurts and especially in the fourth quarter,” Delaware Hayes coach Adam Vincenzo said. “I think that was the difference. We had too many turnovers. We thought we had some good looks, we just didn’t shoot well tonight.”
Vincenzo said that their offense didn’t flow as well as it should have tonight and partially attributed that to sophomore guard Jake Lowman being out.
Burris finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists. It wasn’t his usual offensive display or the one that he would have wanted, but he quietly had a productive night.
BW sophomore Trent Minor contributed seven points and 10 rebounds. Senior Ryan Tripp had 12 points. Baden added 11 points.
Next up, Hayes will host Westerville North on Tuesday. BW will face Westerville South on the road that same night.