By Michael Rich
The Buckeye Valley boys basketball team used a 13-5 run to close out the first half, outscoring visiting Jonathan Alder 13-3 in the second quarter, and held on in the second half to pick up a 15th consecutive MOAC-Red win, 48-41, Thursday night in Delaware.
“It’s a huge win for us,” BV’s Mitch Rotondo said. “(Alder) is the other best team in the conference, so as long as we win out, we can control our destiny.”
Nick Hyatt and Mitch Rotondo each had 13 points to lead the Barons (7-3, 6-0), who are now alone in first place in the MOAC-Red.
“You got to be mentally ready to play,” Barons coach Andy Gast said. “We took it right to them — we built that early lead, which was huge for us. I knew that they would make a run and we kind of held on at the end. I’m very proud of our kids, that was a big win.”
Both Rotondos had a hand in BV’s initial run in the first quarter. After a Jesse Tomlinson free throw broke a 6-6 tie, Mitch Rotondo scored the next four points for the Barons.
Max Rotondo scored on back-to-back possessions underneath late in the first quarter to push the lead to 18-9 and the Barons led 19-11 after one quarter.
“(Those) were big baskets,” Gast said. “Max came off the bench and had huge minutes for us … that’s the thing about our team … everybody contributes.”
Hyatt scored seven straight points for BV in the second quarter as part of an 11-1 start in the first four minutes. The Barons took a 32-14 lead into the intermission.
“Nick is a kid who’s really improved his game from last year,” Gast said. “He’s another weapon that we have that can get to the basket. Nick and Tomlinson — they’re the guys for us that can get it to the basket and create some shots for themselves.”
The Pioneers (8-3, 5-1) came out strong in the third quarter. They opened 10-2 on the strength of a pair of baskets by Tanner Killian. He scored eight in the period to pull Alder to 37-28 at the end of three.
“I knew Alder would make a run,” Gast said. “I was kind of disappointed with our defensive intensity when we came out in the third period. That let them get back into the game. We’ve got to work on that. Just because we’ve got a lead doesn’t mean the game is over.”
Mitch Rotondo opened the fourth with a steal and a layup and Braxton Wells hit a three-pointer on the left wing to push the lead to 42-28.
Killian finished a three-point play and a layup on the following possession to cut the BV lead to nine with 4:38 left in the game, but Hyatt came through with an and-one of his own to push the lead back to double-digits with about four minutes left.
Alder made a late charge in the final minute and change. Killian hit a three on the left wing and a Jon Peters basket cut it to five with 19.5 seconds left, but the Pioneers couldn’t get any closer.
Killian led the Pioneers with 20 points and Peters added eight.
Mitch Rotondo spent most of the night guarding Andrew Koenig, who is Alder’s leading scorer, averaging over 17 per game coming into to Thursday’s game. He was held to one point in the first half and five overall.
“Out of all the years that I’ve coached, he’s the best defender I’ve ever coached,” Gast said. “He’s the best conditioned athlete that I’ve ever coached. He can really flat out guard.”
Buckeye Valley travels to Fairbanks to continue MOAC play Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.com.