Where’s the love?
That’s what Buchtel boys basketball coach Steve White would like to know.
The host Griffins ran their record to a respectable 12-3 on Friday by holding off inspired Firestone 69-63. They figure to be a prominent presence in the Division II sectional/district in Canton. Yet, they continue to be shunned by the voters in the state-wide Associated Press poll. Not even a mention.
“I just don’t get it,” said White, whose team withstood Firestone’s best effort in weeks to raise its record to a City Series-leading 9-0 heading into a makeup game with Ellet tonight and the pairings meeting Sunday at Copley. “It’s not like our schedule is that bad. We’ve lost to St. Vincent-St. Mary, John Hay and by two points at Warrensville Heights. I know that a lot of times ratings are based on reputation, but we have a reputation, too. I guess we’ll just have to keep on fighting.”
The Griffins had to fight for the entire 32 minutes Friday as Firestone (6-10, 4-6) played one of its best games of the season.
“Nobody likes to lose, but I am happy with our effort,” said Firestone coach Dave Milo, whose team was in the game until junior Deric Rucker made two free throws with 32.1 seconds left, extending Buchtel’s lead to 67-61. “That was our best effort in a long time. The way we’ve been lately, I loved the effort. We played with a lot of heart. But we had too many turnovers.”
The Falcons turned the ball over 20 times, 10 in each half.
Other than the effort, Milo also loved the play of center/wing Raybon Lewis. The 6-foot-5 sophomore was outstanding with nine blocked shots and 12 rebounds to go with 10 points, one of five Falcons to score in double figures.
“My gosh, what a game he had,” Milo said. “He has no idea of how good he can be.”
Senior Evan Kennerly backed Allen with 16 points and six rebounds and junior Richard Burroughs finished with 13 points and two rebounds. Kyrell Allen had 12 points and JaeQuan Jones added 10, and though 6-2 senior Miles Kirk scored just two points, he battled to pull down five rebounds and block two shots.
With no starter taller than 6-2 and no significant player bigger than 6-4 D’Angelo Smith-Waymon, the Griffins are basically a team of guards. And they play that way, using their speed to beat teams down the floor.
“Everyone’s bigger than us,” White said. “But our kids play hard and they practice hard and I like that.”
Junior La’Shawn Johnson scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, helping the Griffins build a 12-point lead (34-22) with a little more than two minutes remaining in the second quarter. Junior Talen Sims took charge in the second half, scoring 14 of his 19 points and getting six of his eight rebounds in the second half. Rucker’s game-clinching free throws gave him 10 points.
Johnson threw a scare into the Buchtel faithful when he went down with an apparent knee injury with 2:34 to play and the Griffs hanging on to a four-point lead. White said Johnson is expected to play against Ellet (15-2, 7-2).
White is looking for a little love, but Rucker said he and his teammates are not that concerned.
“We just have to keep moving forward from where we are now,” he said. “Eventually, if we keep winning like we are, we might get that state ranking.”