BW survives late Johnstown run in 55-50 boys basketball win
By ERIC CLINE
For The Sunbury News
NEWARK — The Big Walnut boys basketball team caused a few chewed fingernails and some frayed nerves, but still sent the fans home happy.
The Golden Eagles led by 12 points in the fourth quarter, but had to hold off a Johnstown run in the final five minutes to survive with a 55–50 victory over the Johnnies at the First Federal Holiday Classic Friday night at Newark Catholic High School.
Big Walnut (4–4), who faced host Newark Catholic in Saturday’s championship game (see related story), needed its defense late in the game. The Golden Eagles led 47–35 with five minutes left in the game only to see Johnstown (5–3) go on a 15–6 run in the next four minutes to cut the advantage to three points.
“We had a 12-point lead, but we got a little passive on offense, trying to grind it,” Big Walnut coach Eric Myers said. “We had a couple of bad passes and some turnovers, and Johnstown kept playing hard and got back into it.”
But, thanks to the Big Walnut defense, the Johnnies would not score again. The Johnnies got off a potential game-tying three-point attempt late in the game that rimmed off, and senior Adam Shaheen pulled down the rebound, was fouled, and hit two foul shots with 6.6 seconds left to seal the win.
Early on, the Golden Eagles were solid, scoring 13 points on their first 10 shots of the game and holding a 13–7 lead, but Johnstown’s William Orr kept his crew in the mix, scoring 12 of the Johnnies’ 16 first-quarter points.
But with both junior Chase LaVeer and sophomore Michael Buckles on defense, Orr was held scoreless in the second quarter and had just nine points the rest of the way.
“Chase is a first-year varsity player and he’s coming into his own defensively,” Myers said. “Orr lit it up in the first half and we didn’t have an answer for him in the first quarter, but Chase and Michael Buckles took turns on him after that and both did a nice job for us.”
That allowed Big Walnut to expand its lead. The Golden Eagles led 20–16 after the first period, but used a 13–4 run to take a 13-point, 33–20 lead with just under three minutes left in the half.
Johnstown would cut the lead back to nine, 35–26, at the break and still trailed by nine, 44–35, and when the Golden Eagles scored the first three points of the fourth, it appeared Big Walnut would control the rest of the game, but the free throw line almost proved their downfall.
Big Walnut was 5 of 9 (55.6 percent) from the line in the final quarter and hit just three of their first seven foul shots in the period. The Eagles also committed five turnovers in the final quarter, helping Johnstown on its run.
“That’s one of the things we’re starting to experience with our young team,” Myers said. “We need to be able to hold on to a lead, grind a little and make free throws late in the game. We have to do a better job down the stretch making our free throws.”
After trading points for the next two minutes or so, Johnstown ran off six straight points in a span of 74 seconds to trim the Golden Eagle edge to three, 53–50, with 1:05 left. Big Walnut missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Johnstown the ball with a chance to tie with 20 seconds to go.
But the Golden Eagle defense kept the ball away from Orr. Johnstown’s Jason Carter got off a three with a man in his face, but Shaheen pulled in the rebound and hit his two foul shots that cemented Big Walnut’s place in the title game.
Senior Zach Laughman led the Golden Eagle scoring with 16 points, including two of the team’s three threes on the night. Shaheen had a solid game as well, closing with 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Buckles added 10 points for Big Walnut while junior Logan Boyd added seven points and three assists. LaVeer also added four points and three assists.
“Adam had a good ballgame putting up a double-double,” Myers said. “I felt he did a good job for us tonight. Buck had a good game offensively, and we’ve talked about Logan creating some more shots. He’s a good shooter and he can give us some good second-line scoring.”
Orr finished with his game-high 21 points for Johnstown, while J.D. Arnold added 13 points. Carter and Justin Bush had eight points each for the Johnnies, Carter leading his squad with 10 rebounds.