The biggest challenge facing the Buckeye Valley boys basketball team isn’t its opponents. It’s experience.
The Barons overcame that inexperience to race out to an 18-point halftime lead, weather a comeback that saw their lead dwindle to eight and then execute and make free throws down the stretch on the way to a 68-48 victory over Galion Friday in Delaware.
Freshman Dylan Herbert and juniors Ethan Crawford and Aaron Watson led a whole new cast of characters in the win.
Herbert had 15 points, two assists and two steals; Crawford scored 14 points to go with five rebounds and three assists; and Watson added 12 points and 7 rebounds to lead the Barons.
“Herbert played really well for a freshman, I thought Crawford played really, well … and I thought Watson did some good things,” BV coach Andy Gast said. “We got some contributions from some different guys, which was nice.”
It’s been a struggle for BV so far after losing its first three games of the year to rival Delaware Hayes (by 11), Briggs (by 23) and River Valley (by a three-pointer at the buzzer).
“We’re getting better,” Gast said. “With a young team – a lot of guys without varsity experience – you’re going to have those kinds of struggles.”
But not this time.
Ben Spaulding, a first-year player and one of three seniors on the roster, willed the team early.
“He’s just an overall leader – he’s not necessarily a basketball player – he’s a football player,” Gast said. “But he gives that leadership that we desperately need because the personalities on our team. Not a lot of guys say too much. Ben’s the vocal leader.”
He sparked a first-half run that pushed a 20-12 first-quarter lead up to 38-21 at the break with seven points and seven rebounds.
“He gets tons of offensive rebounds, he’s a great defensive player and any points we get from him are a bonus,” Gast said.
Spaulding finished with seven points and nine rebounds for the Barons (1-3, 1-1) and Austin Richard pulled down seven boards to go with eight points.
“I like to play with a lot of energy to maybe be able to spur my teammates on,” Spaulding said. “But, definitely, some of my friends put me in good positions.”
Galion’s Colten Skaggs and Bobby Gilbert led a rally that saw the Tigers close within eight points.
Skaggs scored all five of his points, three rebounds and two blocks during the rally and Gilbert had six points and four rebounds, which included put-backs on consecutive possessions as BV led 48-38 through three.
Gilbert took a defensive rebound the length of the floor for a layup to pull the Tigers within seven points early in the fourth quarter.
“Galion played hard – give them credit,” Gast said. “They’re kind of in the same boat we are. They had a lot of turnover from last year. But, their kids competed.”
After a BV timeout, Crawford, Richard and Herbert each converted layups off of set plays on back-to-back-to-back possessions to push the lead up to 13.
The Barons converted 14 of 18 free throws down the stretch to salt it away and finished 24-for-33 at the line overall.
Isaiah Alsip led all scorers with 19 points to go with five rebounds and three assists. Gilbert finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds and three assists and Skaggs totaled six rebounds and two blocks for the Tigers (1-4, 0-2).
BV is right back at it tonight, hosting Africentric in non-league play at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.