Resolve, reliance and response were the three things Big Walnut boys basketball coach Brett Bartlett saw out of his squad in a 55-52 win over Buckeye Valley Friday night in Sunbury.
Sophomore Kegan Hienton scored a game-high 17 points to lead the Golden Eagles’ comeback effort after a loss to Watkins Memorial Thursday night to open the season.
“We made sure that we were going to come out strong and play as a team,” Hienton said. “This team bonds well together and we own up to our mistakes. After the loss, we were all frustrated, of course. So, we wanted to come out today, bounce back and play strong – which we did.”
Bartlett and Hienton each talked about the team’s effort in the win after a sluggish performance the previous night.
“Last night, we didn’t come out with the right mentality and the right mindset,” Bartlett said. “We had no urgency last night and we paid the price by taking the loss. I think we learned from that tonight.”
Junior Nathan Montgomery turned the ball over on what appeared to be BW’s last possession of the third quarter.
But, Montgomery gave the perfect example of the resolve, reliance and response on the next play.
With just over 3 seconds left in the third quarter, he denied the inbound pass for a steal, pump-faked, then buried a three-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer to give the Eagles a 44-40 lead through three – part of a 10-1 run that pushed the lead as high as 8 early in the fourth.
“That gave us momentum in the fourth,” Bartlett said. “Just a lot of guts from him to bounce back and put that turnover behind him.”
Montgomery scored 13 points and Carson Becker and Jordan Koebel finished with 12 points apiece for the Eagles.
“(BV) Coach (Andy) Gast gets those kids to play really hard,” Bartlett said. “They’re tough kids. They come after you every single possession – especially on the defensive end. We knew coming back on a back-to-back game, it was going to be a tough test for us.”
Part of that resiliency was holding off the short-handed Barons, who got three-pointers Dylan Herbert, Clark Newland and Luke Lucas in the fourth quarter to keep it within striking distance in the final minute.
With only eight players on the roster to begin with, the Barons lost last year’s leading scorer Ethan Crawford at the 2:29 mark of the first quarter with an apparent separated shoulder.
Crawford appeared to know what had happened as he walked off the floor holding his arm. Gast said Crawford suffered the injury in football earlier in the fall.
“It’s happened before … it’s tough,” Gast said. “I thought our kids really played hard – especially after Crawford went down. He’s such a big part of our scoring.”
Still, Gast loved his team’s effort.
“I thought our kids really battled, but we played hard,” Gast said. “We had a lot of defensive breakdowns tonight. But, I thought we competed hard.”
Herbert led the Barons (0-1) with 15 points, Max Stokey finished with 11 and Lucas added nine.
BV is right back at it tonight when it hosts Olentangy Orange in non-league action at 4:30 p.m.
BW is off until Friday when it opens OCC-Capital play at Canal Winchester at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.