By Michael Rich
Host Worthington Kilbourne used a 15-2 run sandwiched around halftime to take control and then held off a late charge by Big Walnut to win 49-43 in OCC-Capital boys basketball action Tuesday night in Columbus.
“It was a really tough second quarter for us — even the start of the third quarter,” Eagles coach Brett Bartlett said. “But, I’m really proud of my guys for the way we fought back and gave ourselves a chance. They could have blew us out by 20 at that point, but we came back and made it a game.”
Matthew Gierhart paced the Wolves (10-5, 8-2 OCC) with 19 points, including seven of Kilbourne’s 15 points during the run, which allowed the hosts to take a 24-11 lead early in the third quarter.
“(It) was just too many things in the middle of the game,” Bartlett said. “A couple of turnovers here and there, a couple bad shots and the second quarter killed us. You can’t expect to win many games scoring two points in the second quarter.”
Kaleb Phillips led a second-half comeback by the Golden Eagles(3-14, 1-9 OCC), scoring four points during a 6-0 spurt that cut the lead to nine. He had 18 points, five rebounds and three steals to lead BW.
“He had a solid second half for us,” Bartlett said. “He’s a tough matchup if he’s playing under control and smart because he’s got the ability to post up … he can shoot the three a little bit and he can also create for himself from the perimeter.”
Phillips and Austin Becker scored late in third to cut the deficit to seven before Gabe Watson scored to give Kilbourne a 30-21 edge through three. Watson finished with six points and three assists for the Wolves.
“We had some kids step up and make some plays for us in the third quarter,” Bartlett said. “We chipped away at the lead. Once one guy starts making some shots, a couple of other guys started following suit.”
Phillips, Becker and Josh Seabrook all hit from deep in the fourth quarter to help pull it to 45-42 with 23.8 seconds left. Becker finished with 11 points and five boards for the Eagles.
“We battled back and gave ourselves a chance to win,” Bartlett said. “I was proud of our effort.”
BW had a chance to make Kilbourne pay for a couple of missed free throws on the previous possession, but Gierhart pulled down an offensive rebound before hitting both free throws to push the lead to six.
“A couple of free throw box outs toward the end of the game — we had a chance to cut it to a one-possession game,” Bartlett said. “We didn’t do the little things there.”
The Wolves slammed the door, making 5-of-6 free throws in the remaining seconds, including a pair by Drew George with 18.4 seconds left to seal it.
It’s the third straight loss for the Eagles, all close calls.
“We’ve got to find a way to win these close games,” Bartlett said.
The win is Kilbourne’s fourth straight and moves it into a three-way tie for first place in the league with Olentangy Orange and New Albany.
Big Walnut continues league play at home against Mount Vernon Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.