By Michael Rich
Like a closer that blows a save, the best thing after a tough loss is to get back out there the next night.
The Buckeye Valley boys basketball team did just that Saturday and, led by Nick Hyatt’s 17 points, defeated Big Walnut 56-40 in Sunbury.
“I was wondering how my guys would respond from a tough loss,” Barons coach Andy Gast said. “I told them that the best thing that could have happened to us was to play again right away.”
The Barons’ pressure defense helped them overcome a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to force overtime only to fall in heartbreaking fashion Friday night at Delaware Hayes. The way that game played out was a big factor in building a double-digit lead by halftime at Big Walnut Saturday night.
“It was a tough loss, but we couldn’t keep our head down because we had a game (Saturday),” Hyatt said. “(Friday) night we didn’t think (the quick turnaround was a benefit). But, now we don’t end the weekend on a bad note. We don’t have that long week of practice (after a loss).”
Jesse Tomlinson turned a steal into an easy layup to help BV jump out to an 8-2 lead early. The Barons led 10-5 after one.
Hyatt hit a three-pointer and followed that with a steal and a layup on back-to-back possessions to help the Barons (1-1) build a 15-5 edge early in the second quarter.
“He got to the basket and knocked down some shots,” Gast said of Hyatt. “He’s tough when he plays well. He played a real good game.”
Nick Roden made one of his two three-pointers later in the quarter to give the Barons a 25-11 lead. They led 28-14 at the break.
Hyatt had another steal and a score at the end of the third quarter to give Buckeye Valley a 40-25 lead.
The Barons ended up with 13 steals and forced 20 turnovers, which included a 26-6 edge in points off turnovers.
“We’re not real big,” Gast said. “So, we’ve committed to really pressuring the ball this year. We work on it every day in practice and that’s how we’re going to play.”
“All credit goes to Buckeye Valley,” first-year Big Walnut coach Brett Bartlett said. “Those kids come after you for 32 minutes with their pressure. They’re really good at it and they compete with every possession. Hats off to them, they took it to us.”
Hyatt had five steals, four rebounds and two assists to go with his 17 points.
Hyatt played with his index finger wrapped after jamming it in Friday’s opener.
“I think I played better with it,” he said. “I shot better.”
Tomlinson added 11 points and had a team-high seven steals. He also had seven rebounds and five assists.
The Eagles (0-1), meanwhile, have suffered from some preseason injuries and were missing Alex Kelso and Kaleb Phillips, who Bartlett said are potential starters when healthy. He says that they are taking the injuries, “day by day.”
“We’ve battled injuries all preseason,” Bartlett said. “(Austin Becker) has only practiced a couple of times. We’ve got two really important players that didn’t play (Saturday night).”
Bartlett is still getting to know his players … and vice versa.
“We’re going to stay positive,” he said. “We’re going to learn from this and we’re going to try to get better. Nothing is going to happen overnight — it’s going to take time.
“We stayed positive in the locker room afterward. The kids are upset we lost, but we’re going to put this behind us and try to move forward … try to get better.”
Hayden Bowmar sparked Big Walnut off the bench with a team-high 14 points and three rebounds.
“Bowmar gave us some great minutes off the bench,” Bartlett said. “We’ve got to have more guys step up and play better — like he did.”
Becker had nine points and three rebounds and Henry von Hollen pulled down a team-high 11 boards and added six points.
The Eagles are back at it Tuesday night when they host Marion Harding in non-league play. The Barons open the MOAC schedule Thursday night with a trip to North Union.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.