Junior guard Ethan Crawford scored 17 points as host Buckeye Valley eked out a 38-35 victory over visiting Pleasant to stay atop the MOAC-Red boys basketball standings.
“I thought Ethan was the best player on the floor tonight,” BV coach Andy Gast said. “He makes some mistakes from time to time, but he’s learning and he’s getting better. The thing I love about Ethan is that he comes to work every day to get better.”
Aaron Watson knocked down a three-pointer to give the Barons the lead for good with about three and a half minutes left in Thursday night’s win in Delaware.
The Spartans had two chances to tie it in the final 15 seconds, but Ryan Wood missed a three from the top of the key and Nick Kimmel collected a long rebound on the left wing and threw up a shot at the buzzer that hit the rim twice before falling out.
The BV defense held Pleasant to 25 percent (14-for-56) from the field and 1-for-14 from long range.
“We practice for these moments because when it gets tough, you gotta fall back on your defense,” Gast said. “Our defensive effort was tremendous … we grinded out a win.”
The Spartans won the rebounding battle 40-34, which included 13 second-chance points.
“We were giving up a lot of offensive rebounds and I thought they played harder than us in the first half,” Gast said. “We were not very pleased … we thought they won the hustle points and that’s what we talked about at halftime. I thought we did a better job in the second half.”
Nathan Edington had 10 rebounds and four blocks to go with four points for the Barons (4-6, 3-1) and Watson finished with seven points.
The Watson three came after he found Crawford for a three to cut the deficit to one with five and a half minutes left.
“For me, coming into this program with a great student section and a great fan base … it’s been really fun,” said Crawford, who is in his first year with the Barons. “The first few games I was trying to feel where I fit in with the team, but the last few games, I’ve found where I fit in. Sometimes I try to do too much, but at the same time, I really rely on my teammates and I’m thankful for them.”
BV has won three of its last four after starting the season 1-5, and three of its four wins have come in league play.
“We want to play the best and I always try to schedule really good non-conference opponents,” Gast said. “Even though we’ve taken our lumps this year, I think it’s made our team better. We want our program to be one of the best programs in the area and you can only do that by playing better teams.”
Ethan Warner had given Pleasant the lead with a pair of free throws late in the third and Joe Craycraft converted a three-point play to give the Spartans a 27-23 lead through three.
The Barons held Pleasant to just two baskets in the first quarter and led 9-4 at the end of the first.
A pair of put-backs by Craycraft and Kimmel tied it before a short jumper by Craycraft gave Pleasant its first lead at 13-11. Pleasant led 19-18 at the break.
Edington put back his own miss to give BV a 23-21 edge late in the third, but Pleasant closed 6-0 in the final minute and a half of the third to gain control.
Craycraft led the Spartans (4-4, 1-2) with 15 points, Warner had seven points and 10 rebounds and Wood added six points and seven boards.
“The teams in our league are tough,” Gast said. “Any time you play Pleasant or River Valley or Jonathan Alder, you’re going to get a good game … I think our conference is very competitive.”
BV returns to action against Marion Harding in MOAC play Jan. 13 at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.