The Golden Eagles have had their share of close games since January 21 … last Friday night was no different.
In its last four starts prior to Friday night, Big Walnut had been involved in four games decided by a total of 11 points, losing three of those four outings. The Golden Eagles had had enough, holding off a fast-closing Olentangy Orange quintet in a 53-51 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division thriller in Sunbury.
“We were in each of our last four games prior to Orange, but we were unable to finish with the exception of our 50-47 win over Mount Vernon, losing the other three games by a total of 6 points,” Big Walnut head coach Eric Myers said. “Against Orange, we accomplished.”
Big Walnut (9-10, 4-8 OCC) trailed only once against the Pioneers, falling behind 6-4 with 3:44 left in the opening quarter. By the end of the third period, thanks to a defense that forced 13 Orange turnovers, the Golden Eagles were up by 11 with a 38-27 lead.
In the third quarter, senior Logan Boyd provided the spark, scoring nine of his 21 points, including the Golden Eagles last five points of the period after Orange had pulled to within five of the lead thanks to a 14-9 run led by sophomore Cole Shepherd and freshman Will Phillis who combined for 9 of the Pioneers’ 14 points. Big Walnut’s defense quelled the Orange run, forcing the Pioneers to turn the ball over on their last five possessions of the period.
“Our defense did a nice job keeping Orange away from the basket in the first half, and we scored 14 points off their turnovers to help build our lead going into the fourth quarter,” Myers said.
Orange (3-15, 3-9 OCC), which won the season’s first meeting with the Golden Eagles 52-43, was not about to go quietly into the night.
The Pioneers scored on all but three of their 14 fourth-quarter possessions, and with 1:12 remaining they had crept to within three points of the lead at 48-45 Shepherd’s baseline basket after the Golden Eagles had opened up a 9-point 47-38 lead on baskets by Matt Tarney, Nick Herbert and Josh Seabrook with 2:52 left on the clock.
Boyd’s basket put Big Walnut up by five at 50-45 at the 53-second mark, but senior Dawson countered with three to bring Orange within one of the lead at 51-50 with 0:08.9 seconds showing on the clock. The Pioneers sent Herbert to the line with 0:05.3 seconds left and the BW senior made both free throws for a 53-50 Golden Eagle cushion.
“I’m really proud of out guys with the way they maintained their focus with the game on the line,” Myers said. “I think playing in those close games made us a stronger and more determined team.”
Scoring behind Boyd for Big Walnut were Seabrook with 10, Herbert with 9 and Zach Asher with 7 points. Sophomore Haydn Audsley paced Orange with 12 points while freshman Jay Joseph and Shepherd added 10 points apiece. Phillis finished with 8 points.
Big Walnut shot 40.0 percent (16-for-40) from the field, including 10-for-21 (47.6 percent) in the second half, and 4-for-13 (30.8 percent) from behind the arc. The Golden Eagles converted 17 of their 25 (68.0 percent) free throw attempts. Orange shot 48.6 percent (18-for-37) from the floor, including 21.4 percent (3-for-14) from 3 -point range. The Pioneers shot 80.0 percent (12-for-15) at the line.
Orange, led by Phillis 7 and sophomore Adam Rieger with 6 rebounds, claimed a 31-25 advantage on the boards. Asher pulled down a team high 6 boards for BW. Kyle Gose backed Asher with 4 rebounds. The Golden Eagles turned the ball over only 6 times in 47 possessions (12.8 percent) at the cost of only 4 points to Big Walnut. Meanwhile the Pioneers committed 15 turnovers in 49 possessions (30.6 percent) losing 17 points to the Golden Eagles.
NEW ALBANY 31, BIG WALNUT 28 — The host Eagles outscored the visiting Golden Eagles 16-11 in the second half to score last Tuesday’s (February 4) Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division victory at New Albany.
Big Walnut (8-10, 3-8 OCC) led 17-15 at the half in the defensive struggle against the Capital Division co-leaders, thanks to winning the second quarter by a 7-2 score.
New Albany (9-7, 8-2 OCC) was led by 6-foot junior Alex Sparks with 9 points. Darrell Miller and Austin Schaub backed Sparks with 8 points apiece.
Logan Boyd led the Golden Eagles with 7 points. Zac Asher and Chase LaVeer followed with 6 and 5 points, respectively.