By Michael Rich
Big Walnut girls basketball coach Steve Palmer’s word of the day for his team was effort … and it took a mighty big effort for the Golden Eagles to come off the mat and take control en route to a 58-54 overtime win over Buckeye Valley Monday in Sunbury.
Kelly Kreager carried Big Walnut through most of the game before Katie Neff pitched in eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter.
“I thought effort got us to the win,” Palmer said. “I thought we stayed aggressive (late in the game) and our effort was good.”
The two connected late in the fourth quarter when Kreager found Neff for three to give Big Walnut a 39-38 lead — its first lead since an 18-17 edge early in the second quarter.
It looked like the Eagles (1-0) were going to literally steal a victory from Buckeye Valley after a Neff theft turned into a bucket by Stacy Walters to push the lead to 44-41 with just under 30 seconds left.
But BV’s Megan Veneman sank a three-pointer from the left wing to tie it for the Barons (0-1) with a little over 10 seconds remaining, ultimately sending the game into overtime.
“We got down and we fought back — Megan hit a big three for us that put us in position,” BV coach Landon Fraker said.
Neff opened the extra period with a three-pointer of her own from the left wing, assisted by Ellie Jindra.
“She was 0-for-the-year for us, but then she hit a couple of timely ones,” Palmer said. “And that’s what she does … once she gets her feet set, she’s deadly.”
The Eagles never trailed again, pushing the lead to as much as 55-48 before Gabrielle Legg and Morgan Scowden hit threes on back-to-back possessions.
“They left Legg open and I thought that was a big shot for her to take,” Fraker said. “Morgan came off a screen and hit a big jump shot with a hand in her face. They’re players … they saw an opportunity and knew what we needed and they got it.”
Kreager led Big Walnut with 19 points, nine on three-pointers.
“She carried us in the first half,” Palmer said.
Katie Cochran added 10 points and 11 rebounds, including seven on the offensive end for the Eagles.
“We are truly that Forrest Gump box of chocolates … when you’ve got three sophomores starting,” Palmer said. “You can hide one, but when you’ve got three of them out there. I thought they answered the bell for us tonight.”
The Barons were led by Tess Hughes, who had 11 points and 19 rebounds, and Alaina Radcliffe, who also had 11 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.
“I thought they did a nice job of coming in when we got in foul trouble,” Fraker said. “They played a lot of minutes. I was really impressed with Tess and her fight and Alaina bouncing back after some adversity early in the game.”
Scowden had 10 points and six assists and Veneman added seven points, eight boards and six assists.
“I’m proud of my girls … they could have quit, they could have packed it in, but they didn’t,” Fraker said.
Both teams open league play next time out. The Eagles host Franklin Heights Friday night while the Barons host Fairbanks next Tuesday night.
Buckeye Valley’s bowling teams both improved to 2-0 Monday, rolling to lopsided wins over visiting Pleasant.
The boys picked up a 2,186-806 victory over the shorthanded Spartans, who played with just three bowlers. It was a solid showing for the Barons, but one they can improve upon.
“The boys are working through the hard things like shooting the single-pin spares,” BV coach Madonna Wells said. “It’s something we talk about, but they don’t realize how many they miss … like tonight we missed 18 makeable spares.
Jimmy Davis led the way with games of 208 and 211 (419). Other contributors included Nick Cooper (337), Jacob Moeslein (325), Spencer Milligan (190) and Jacob Man (181).
The girls, meanwhile, handled Pleasant 1,914-1,431.
“These girls are bowling as a team so early in the season, I only hope this is the beginning to another great season,” Wells said. “They just pick each other up, never letting anyone get down. Morgan Stuart is a great leader and tonight she was high for all the kids bowling with a 423 (211, 212).
BV also got solid contributions from Carly Kelley (380), Sydney Lenart (career-high 323), Tara McClure (275) and Fiona Tseng (238).
The Barons return to action next Tuesday at Marysville Lanes against North Union.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.