By Michael Rich
Ethan Guice used his size to create havoc and was too much for Buckeye Valley to overcome in a 62-43 loss to Whitehall-Yearling in a Division II boys basketball district semifinal Tuesday night at Olentangy Orange High School in Lewis Center.
Guice, who is 6-foot-6, scored 16 of his game-high 17 points in the paint and pulled down seven of his 13 rebounds on the offensive end to create 11 second-chance points for the top-seeded Rams.
“He was a big load,” BV coach Andy Gast said. “The thing about him is that he was such a quick second-jumper — he’d miss the first one, but he’d get right back up and get the second one. We battled him and made him earn his points.”
Whitehall outrebounded the smaller Barons 37-25 and scored 40 points in the paint. BV has just two players in its rotation that are taller than 6-foot-2.
“I’m very proud of our kids — I thought we had a very good game plan,” Gast said. “I can’t ask our kids to compete any harder. That’s the way we’ve been all year … that’s why we’ve won 18 games.”
The Rams (21-4) used a 13-2 run that bridged halftime to create distance. Tyler Whitfield hit a three-pointer with about one second left before halftime to give his team a 27-19 lead at the break.
“That was a tough three-pointer that (Whitfield) hit before the half to push it to eight instead of five,” Gast said. “I thought we played an excellent first half.”
The Barons (18-7) never led, though they made rallies in the first half to tie it on a couple of occasions.
Nick Hyatt drove the lane for a layup and followed with a steal of the inbound pass and immediately nailed a three-pointer from the right wing to tie the score 16-16 with 4:45 left in the half.
Hyatt had a solid effort for the Barons with 13 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals.
“He was great — the last two games, he’s really, really stepped up,” Gast said. “I thought his defense was great (Tuesday night).”
But BV couldn’t get over the hump. Whitehall scored 21 of the next 26 points to grab a 14-point advantage with 4:52 left in the third period, which included eight points on put-backs.
The Barons couldn’t get it back under 10 points and trailed 43-30 through three before Whitehall used a 19-13 fourth quarter to round out the scoring.
Grant Kelly had a solid second half, scoring all of his team-high 15 points, nine of which came from behind the arc. Kelly pulled down five rebounds as well.
“I thought in the second half he played really well,” Gast said.
Jesse Tomlinson ended up with four pick-pockets to go with six points for BV.
The Barons graduate five players — Hyatt, Kelly, Tomlinson, Mitch Rotondo and Tim Schilling.
All played significant time and helped lead them to their sixth MOAC title in the last seven seasons, their first tournament wins since 2010 and the first trip to the district semifinal round since 2009.
“It’s probably one of the tougher locker room endings I’ve had to go through as a coach because I’m very personally close to all of these seniors and it’s hard,” Gast said. “There’s going to be a lot of positions that are available next year.”
C.J. Prater and Earl Redman had 10 points each for the Rams. Prater had three rebounds and three assists and Redman had three rebounds and three steals.
Antione Vaughn led with four assists and had five rebounds to go with six points for Whitehall.
“They’re a good team — they’ve got good, really quick guards,” Gast said. “I thought, for the most part, we were solid on defense. They didn’t get many transition points, which we focused on.”
Whitehall will play fourth-seeded St. Francis DeSales for the district championship Friday night at Worthington Kilbourne at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.