By Michael Rich
Buckeye Valley got solid three-point shooting and 22 points from senior guard Jesse Tomlinson, and held off a late rally to hang on for a 60-57 win over visiting Marion Harding Saturday night in its home opener.
The win allows the Barons to stay in first place in the MOAC-Red boys basketball standings with Jonathan Alder, which also won Saturday night.
“I’m proud of our kids — we had a great week of practice and we were prepared for this game,” Barons coach Andy Gast said.
Tomlinson scored six of the first seven points for Buckeye Valley (4-1, 3-0), including the go-ahead basket to give his team a 5-4 lead — a lead it never relinquished.
“We definitely practiced hard all week, so we were ready for the game,” Tomlinson said. “I feel like I did a good job getting guys open and they were knocking down shots. I crashed the boards pretty hard too.”
“He’s tough,” Gast said. “I think when he’s locked in, he’s one of the best players in the league. He’s so hard to keep out of the paint. Defensively, he’s tough. He was big (Saturday night). They had a tough time keeping him in front.”
Tomlinson scored 16 of his 22 points in the paint and the other six from the foul line.
The Barons scored the final five points of the first half, four of which came off steals that turned into break-away baskets — first by Tomlinson and then by Elijah Jackson with only a couple of seconds remaining to give BV a 29-18 advantage.
The Presidents (4-1, 2-1) controlled the third period with help from a pair of three-pointers by Ryan Sayre and another by Jason Ellis to pull to 37-30 at the end of the period.
The Barons started the fourth quarter strong and, after a key three-pointer by Tim Schilling helped build a 52-39 lead, the win appeared well in hand.
“We had some guys step up — Tim Schilling hit a big three in the corner and Braxton Wells hit some threes,” Gast said. “It was a total team effort … I was very impressed.”
Harding would not go away, though. The Presidents hit four three-pointers in the fourth quarter, two by Ellis, one by Sayre and the last by Brandon Keller, which allowed them to pull within 59-57 with 3.2 seconds left.
“They did a good job of getting back into the game by hitting some tough threes,” Tomlinson said. “I give them props for that — they have some tough guys.”
Ellis led the Presidents with 20 points and also had four assists and three rebounds. Sayre put in 15 points. Harding went 8-for-22 from behind the arc with seven coming in the second half.
“They have some real good players — they hit some tough shots down the stretch,” Gast said. “Right when it seemed like we were going to put them away, they wouldn’t go away.”
Tomlinson split a pair of free throws for the final margin.
Buckeye Valley went 6-for-19 from behind the arc, led by Wells, who hit three of them, scored 11 points and pulled down four rebounds.
“We shoot a lot in practice and were due to have a good game because we haven’t shot the ball that well,” Gast said. “We needed it (Saturday night) because Harding has good shooters.”
Harding had a 36-24 advantage on the boards.
The Barons finished 12-for-21 at the line, including 6-for-11 in the fourth quarter, which allowed Harding to stay close.
“We’ve got to improve our free throw shooting,” Gast said. “We did leave the door open.”
Marion Harding joined the MOAC last season, but the two teams have met every season since 2010-11. Buckeye Valley has won each of the seven meetings, but the last three have been decided by four points or less.
“I’ll take a win by one or whatever it is,” Gast said. “I’m not going to complain about that.”
The Barons are back in action Saturday night when they host league-foe River Valley at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.