By Michael Rich
Buckeye Valley started fast, finished strong and played solid defense the whole way through in a 38-26 win at Bexley Monday night.
In a preview of the first round of the Division II district tournament, the Barons closed 15-5 in the second half to run away with the victory.
“We didn’t really show everything we have,” BV junior guard Megan Veneman said. “I think that it means a lot (because) we weren’t particularly on (Monday night) in every aspect our game.”
“We thought our strengths were our inside game and our speed,” Barons coach Landon Fraker said. “So, we tried to get the ball inside and get up and down the floor.”
Veneman and Logan Hatcher led the Barons (12-8) with seven points apiece. Veneman added four assists, three steals and three rebounds and Hatcher had five rebounds.
“(Veneman) had a nice all-around game,” Fraker said. “(Hatcher) snags rebounds – she’s strong when she catches it. She did a great job of catching the ball in position to score (in the second half).”
BV, which snapped a two-game skid, led 23-22 when Gabrielle Legg turned a steal into a layup with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
The Barons played solid defense all night, but held the Lions (12-10) scoreless from the field for the final 13 minutes and 30 seconds after Charnae Williams laid one in off her own steal. Williams led all scorers with eight points, four rebounds and three steals.
“We played some pretty good defense (Monday night),” Veneman said. “I’m really excited for (next) Monday – I think our defense is getting a lot better.”
Ashley Barno went 4-for-4 at the line during the deciding stretch for Bexley.
Fraker said he subbed more than usual to utilize his press and because the Barons still have two games left this week. He pointed out performances by Gabrielle and Dominque Legg, Lisa Leienberger and Grace Smith
“That’s what we need as a team,” Fraker said. “We have to be comfortable as coaches putting them in no matter where they are on the bench, and we felt good (Monday night).”
Smith had two of her three rebounds, a pair of blocks and a layup at the end of the third quarter. BV led 27-22 through three.
Veneman was charged with guarding Maddy Vincent, who is the Lions’ second-leading scorer, averaging a little over 10 points per game. Vincent had six points, five in the first half.
“I thought (Veneman) did a nice job defensively,” Fraker said. “She turned it up a notch – she causes so much havoc with her arms – her hands and her feet are so good.”
The Barons started fast, opening 13-2 before Bexley closed out the period 13-4. Alaina Radcliffe hit a three and scored five points in the period and BV had five steals as a team. The Barons finished with 10 steals as a team.
The Lions came back strong in the second thanks to a three-pointer by Emma Dressel, which helped close the deficit to 17-13 at the half. Dressel finished with five points and four rebounds.
Tess Hughes had nine rebounds to lead BV and Tamya Bell had eight to lead Bexley.
Bexley was without top-scorer Brie Toney, who averages 17.4 points and 10 rebounds per game. JoAnne Leienberger missed the game because of illness for the Barons.
BV travels to Bloom-Carroll for non-league play Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.