Firestone boys basketball coach Dave Milo left Buchtel on Friday night with a hoarse voice and a victory.
While he would rather sound normal, he will gladly take the 73-72 overtime win before a sold-out crowd at Appleby Gymnasium.
The Falcons (6-1, 5-0 City Series) dispatched the Griffins (3-1, 3-1) by overcoming deficits of 12 points at halftime and seven points with 1:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Senior Kevin Gladney led Firestone’s charge with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Jerome Lane added 22 points and 16 rebounds, and junior Evan Kennerly contributed 14 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
Kennerly scored all six of Firestone’s points in overtime. Buchtel missed a layup and a jumper on its final possession.
“The mentality was to keep battling,” Kennerly said. “We saw the crowd and how people were leaving. People thought we were out of it. We were a couple of points down. We were not down by that big of a gap. We knew we could come back.”
Gladney and Lane combined to score seven points and erase a 67-60 Buchtel lead with 1:30 to go in the fourth quarter and force overtime.
“We clearly beat ourselves,” Buchtel coach Stephen White said. “We were up seven points with a minute and 30 seconds left. We did not make foul shots, and then we turn around and not only do we foul a kid, but we get a technical foul too [when a player questioned a call]. So, we beat ourselves. That is my fault as a coach.”
Buchtel led 16-13 after one quarter and 36-24 at halftime. Gladney scored 12 points in the third quarter to help Firestone lead 51-49 going into the fourth.
“That was the best third quarter we have played in years,” Milo said. “We came out in the third and had 27 points. They came back and were very gutsy. Let’s face it, Buchtel is a good team. They are very athletic. We knew they were going to press. We know their style, but when it came time to come back we found the right combination of guys. J.T. played his heart out and Kevin took the ball to the hole. I put [junior] Miles Kirk in in the third quarter and he got rebounds.
“Evan has got so much talent, but sometimes his brain goes faster than his body. He just needs to slow down. He is a great talent. If he slows down and just plays the game the way he can play it, he has that ability to do that every night.”
Seniors Elijah Bell (18 points) and Tyler Jones (15 points) paced Buchtel.
“The second half we were coming from behind,” Lane said. “We were determined to come out and play hard. We knew what they were doing. We knew they were coming out to press. We just tried to work the ball. We came out and played hard as a family.”
Falcons senior Darin Adams, junior Jae’Quan Jones and Kirk combined to score 10 points. Senior Chaz Brantley injured a knee in the first quarter and did not return.
“It was all about making corrections at halftime,” Gladney said.
“I knew my first and second quarters were kind of bad. I knew I had to come out and contribute to the team by putting up points.”
Junior Tre Smith scored nine points, and sophomore Deric Rucker had seven points and 11 rebounds. Senior Demonte Hicks had seven points.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.