GREEN: Thanks to the Green Bulldogs, the Suburban League boys basketball race is wide open with six games left to play.
Hot-shooting Green used a dominant first half and 20-of-28 free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter Friday night to hand first-place Highland a 71-61 setback. The result is a three-way tie at the top of the Suburban League with Green, Highland and Tallmadge all 6-2.
“We knew we had to bring it,” said Green junior guard Austin Marciniak, who hit three 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 23 points. “We really tried to limit Brogan [Scott] and Tanner [Houska].”
Highland junior stars Scott and Houska had 19 and 15 points, respectively, but did most of their damage in the second half, after Green had built a 30-14 halftime lead.
“We always talk about winning that first quarter,” Green coach Mark Kinsley said. “I thought Nick Reale was a big key for us, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter.”
The Bulldogs led 15-8 after one quarter.
Reale, a senior guard, finished with 14 points, and senior forward Carson Corle contributed 12 points and eight rebounds in the victory.
But, it was the play of 6-foot-8 senior center Landon Holl that put Green over the top. Holl came off the bench to drop in 10 points (4-of-4 on free throws) and his size in the lane made it tougher for the Hornets to score.
“Landon has improved, and he’s getting more minutes,” Kinsley said. “We knew Scott was going to be a big matchup for us, and we talked about putting Landon on him because of his length, and he did as good a job as anybody.”
Green (9-4, 6-2) shot a sizzling 21-of-33 (63.6 percent) from the floor, connecting on all seven shots it took in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs have shot 65 percent from the field this season against the Hornets, including 10 3-point goals in an 88-66 win in the first meeting Dec. 6 at Highland.
Coach Michael Murphy’s Hornets had whittled the deficit to 43-35 late in the third quarter, but Marciniak’s deep 3-point goal at the buzzer restored an 11-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“We got the rebound with six seconds, and I saw Kenton [Keeslar] bringing the ball up. If I caught it, I was going to put it up,” Marciniak said. “I just let it go, and prayed that it went in.”
Marciniak let it fly from right in front of his team’s bench.
“That was a big momentum shot,” Kinsley said.
Senior Alex Wood stroked a 3-point goal with 1:29 left and sliced Green’s lead to 62-55. The Bulldogs responded by sinking 9-of-12 free-throw attempts to close the game.
Green won the rebounding battle by a margin of eight to offset 15 turnovers to Highland’s six.
For Highland (9-5, 6-2), the game was an uphill climb almost from the start. The Hornets shot 3-of-13 from the floor in both the first and second quarters.
Scott had seven rebounds and senior Alec Withers added 11 points for Highland.
Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps.