By Michael Rich
Jonathan Alder hit four threes during an 18-5 run in the third quarter to gain control on the way to a 63-52 win over Buckeye Valley Tuesday night in Plain City.
“Give Alder a lot of credit, they’re a well-coached team,” BV coach Andy Gast said. “They made more plays than we did (Tuesday night). I have a lot of respect for their program. Coach (Brent) Cahill does a great job. I think our kids played hard as well.”
The Barons and Pioneers are tied for first in the MOAC-Red with one game to play for each team.
Andrew Koenig and Tanner Killian connected on two three-pointers apiece for the Pioneers, turning a one-point halftime deficit into a 12-point lead late in the third quarter.
“They made some plays there,” Gast said. “I believe they got two threes off deflected balls. We’re kind of scrambling around trying to find our guy – we just left a couple of guys open. We didn’t get the loose ball, left them open and they knocked them down.”
Killian led the Pioneers (17-4, 11-2) with 18 points and 12 rebounds and Koenig added 17 points and six rebounds.
Grant Kelly sparked a late 11-0 Buckeye Valley run with a pair of steals, a three-point play and a pair of assists.
He fed Jesse Tomlinson for three to start the run before pick-pocketing Alder on back-to-back possessions – the latter resulting in an old-fashioned three-point play after he was fouled on the layup.
The run cut it to 49-45 before Alder closed 14-7 for the final margin.
“We cut the lead to four or five multiple times and (then) had some possessions that we came up empty on,” Gast said. “You gotta make plays down the stretch to beat good teams, and we didn’t make enough tonight.”
Tomlinson finished with a game-high 20 points, six rebounds and three steals and Kelly ended up with 10 points for the Barons.
“Jesse Tomlinson is a gamer,” Gast said. “He’s always going to compete – he’s always going to give it everything he has. He scored the ball for us (Tuesday night) and made some huge plays.”
It was a struggle all night for the Barons from the floor. They shot 32 percent overall and went just 5-for-28 (18 percent) from three-point range.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well,” Gast said. “Our shooting percentage was not very good, but you give credit to (Alder’s) defense.
“They’re so good defensively … we’ve got to reverse the ball and move the ball to get their defense to shift. When we did that, I thought we were really successful. When we didn’t do that, we got into trouble.”
BV opened the game 7-0, led by Mitch Rotondo, who had five points, a block and a steal. He finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
“I thought our kids played really hard and came out on fire with that 7-0 start,” Gast said. “Mitch always draws the toughest defensive assignment and he’s able to produce some offense and rebound and some other things. That’s a credit to his conditioning and how good of an athlete he is.”
Trey Pugh sparked a 19-7 run that bridged the first and second quarters to give Alder a 19-14 advantage. He came off the bench to score eight points and pull down four rebounds in the second quarter alone.
Rotondo found Tomlinson for a three-pointer before putting back a rebound with two seconds left in the half to give the Barons (15-6, 11-2) a 23-22 lead at the break.
Pugh finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and a team-high five assists for the Pioneers.
The Barons close out both the league and the regular season against Fairbanks with at least a share of the league title on the line Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
“We’ve got to take care of business on Friday because if we don’t, we don’t share the title,” Gast said. “We’ve got to refocus and come back to practice and see what we’re really made of.”
Alder hosts Pleasant Saturday night at 7:30 to try to hold up its end of the deal.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.