Hayes boys shake slow start, run past Eagles, 53-37
By GARY HENERY
News Managing Editor
The Pacers looked to their defense early … until their offense found its stride.
Delaware Hayes, trailing the host Golden Eagles 49 seconds into the second quarter, closed the opening half with a 12–0 run to take a 23–15 halftime lead en route to a 53–37 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division decision over Big Walnut on Winter Homecoming Night Saturday night in Sunbury. Trailing the Golden Eagles 15–11 on senior Adam Shaheen’s drive down the lane, the Pacers pulled even at 15–15 on successive baskets by junior forward Gaige Linville and junior guard Rommell Toran with 4:28 left in the first quarter.
From that point on, it was all Hayes as the Pacers scored 12 unanswered points following Shaheen’s basket — BW’s lone goal of the quarter, on the Golden Eagles’ Winter Homecoming night.
With the Pacer defense forcing 7 turnovers in Big Walnut’s final 11 possessions of the second quarter, Hayes (10–4, 6–2 OCC) closed the half with an 8–0 run capped by a layin and a 3-point basket at the buzzer from senior guard Mike Wells to take a 23–15 lead into the intermission.
After the game, Hayes head coach Jordan Blackburn said he and his staff had the Pacers focusing on defense during their last three practices prior to Saturday’s game.
“We were focusing on containing (senior guard Zach) Laughman and Shaheen,” Blackburn said, “And we were pretty successful thanks to the play of Mike and Khalil (Iverson) along with Tyler (Treese) off the bench.
Unfortunately our offense was struggling against Big Walnut’s aggressive zone … until Gaige and Toran hit those two baskets, baskets which gave us the momentum we were looking for.”
Big Walnut (5–11, 1–8 OCC) was no closer than 7 points of the lead in the second half. After closing the margin to 7 at 26–19 on two free throws by sophomore Michael Buckles with 6:35 left in the third period, Hayes, drilling six consecutive shots from the field, unleashed a 19–7 run to take a 19-point, 45–26 lead into the final 8 minutes.
Iverson, who scored 7 points in the spree, ignited the Pacer attack with a rebound basket and layin. Sophomore Noble counted a three and Wells finished the run with a pair of baskets.
“Once Delaware finds its offensive rhythm, its difficult to slow them down,” Big Walnut head coach Eric Myers said. “Wells hit his stride and Iverson took control inside in the second half … and we didn’t have an answer.”
Wells led Delaware with a game-high 20 points on 7 field goals, including a pair of threes. Iverson followed with 13 and senior forward Griffin Kinney with 10 points. The Pacers shot 46.7 percent (21-for-45), adding 7 of 10 free throws (70.0 percent).
Big Walnut was led by Shaheen, the lone Golden Eagle in double figures with 16 points. Sophomore Zach Asher followed with 8 points while junior Nick Herbert and Buckles added 5 points apiece.
Laughman, BW’s outside shooting threat, was held to a single 3-point basket which came in the opening minute of play.
For the game, the Golden Eagles were 15-for-49 (30.6 percent) from the field and 4-for-4 (100.0 percent) at the line.
The Pacers, led by the 6-foot-4 Iverson’s 9 rebounds, claimed a 35–25 edge off the glass. Wells added 7 boards. The 6–6 Shaheen cleared off 12 missed shots for the Golden Eagles.