Buchtel boys basketball coach Stephen White smiled and hugged his players after Friday night’s City Series postseason championship victory over Ellet.
He posed for pictures with players, held the trophy and cut down a piece of the net after the Griffins’ 62-49 triumph in Chapman Gymnasium at Garfield.
One person was missing though. His wife, Marguerite White died earlier this school year at age 45 after having a massive heart attack stemming from sickle cell anemia.
“I dedicate this to my wife,” White said. “She passed on Oct. 4 and I know she would have been here hugging and kissing me. I dedicate this one to her.”
White, 46, guided Buchtel (15-4, 12-1) to its eighth City Series regular-season title this season, seven of which are outright, and seventh victory in the postseason title game since he took over the program in 2004.
“We really won this for him,” said Buchtel senior Tre’ Smith, who scored 12 points. “Since his wife died, we gotta love him more and be around him more. We gotta show him love.”
Junior Talen Sims led Buchtel with 20 points, 11 rebounds and three steals.
“My teammates just encouraged me and I did what I had to do,” Sims said.
Senior Ci’Andre Johnson-Lollar and junior Deric Rucker both scored 11 points for Buchtel, and junior La’Shawn Johnson added eight points.
“It was obviously a tragedy with what happened,” Johnson-Lollar said. “I am proud of Coach for the way he has acted and the way he has fought through and stayed strong. He is strong so we can be strong. If we would have broken down, the team would have broken down. He is the rock of this team.”
Junior Breaon Brady paced Ellet (18-3, 10-3) with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Buchtel led 19-11 after one quarter, 36-27 at halftime and 53-39 after three quarters. Smith netted a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the second, and Smith and Johnson-Lollar blocked consecutive shots to conclude the third.
“Yesterday we talked after we practiced and we wrote on the big board: tempo,” White said. “If we were going to control the tempo, we were going to win the game. Ellet played well. … We were able to impose our will on them and we won the City championship. I am very proud of my team.”
Ellet cut its deficit to 55-47 with 5:27 to go in the fourth, but Buchtel ended the game on a 7-2 run.
“Every game we play as a team and we never get down on each other,” Johnson said. “We always play 100 percent and depend on each other.”
Rucker grabbed seven rebounds and Johnson grabbed five rebounds. Both had three steals.
“This is an amazing feeling,” Rucker said.
“Helping my seniors get it down is incredible. I had to end this regular season on a good note.”
Ellet senior Jake Williams scored 11 points. Senior Jake Fisher added nine points, and senior Dionte Williams had six points and eight rebounds.
“We got what we wanted a lot and that ball hung on that rim, and man, that thing wouldn’t fall in for us,” Ellet coach Mark Fisher said.
“It hung up there, hung up there and fell the other way. Their shots fell the other way, into the hole. Sometimes that happens. We were doing what we wanted to do and we handled their pressure pretty well. They made shots and we didn’t make shots.”