Buchtel hung around with St. Vincent St. Mary for most of the night, but the Fighting Irish found a defense that worked and outscored the Griffins 21-7 in the fourth quarter in a 59-42 win at home on Saturday night.
Buchtel (11-5) pushed the tempo and had the score tied 35-35 with under a minute to go in the third quarter. But once St. V-M coach Dru Joyce switched to a 2-3 zone defense, the Irish were able to slow the game down and stifle Buchtel’s attack during the final nine minutes.
“I thought early on, we got caught up in their pace,” Joyce said. “It just rushed everything we were doing. Once we got into the zone and controlled the tempo, we were able to pull away.”
The Irish (9-7) pushed Buchtel to the outside, where the Griffins struggled all night. Buchtel shot just 36 percent from the floor and was 0-for-11 from behind the 3-point line.
“We were able to force them to take shots that they didn’t want to take,” Joyce said. “And we had some blocks inside, or at least some contested shots.”
Junior forward Jalen Hudson scored a game-high 16 points and ignited St. V-M’s run over the latter part of the game. Hudson made three free throws in the final minute of the third quarter to give the Irish a 38-35 lead, and then made a 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter. He also had five rebounds.
Freshman VJ King shot just 7-for-19 from the floor but scored 14 points to go with 10 rebounds.
“It wasn’t a bad game, but 7-of-19 is not efficient,” Joyce said. “You’ve got to be efficient. And he’ll get better. When we needed a basket in the second half, we got on him to get to the rim. We need to be doing that more, and we’ll continue to work on it.”
The Irish, who have height on the roster that Buchtel can’t make up for, outrebounded the Griffins 45-35. Senior Nick Wells led the way with 11 rebounds to go with 11 points. Junior Dante Booker had eight rebounds.
“I was pretty pleased with the rebounding, that’s always a goal,” Joyce said. “There are three things that if we can do we feel we can win most games. Keep the other team shooting under 40 percent, win the rebounding by 10, and make more free throws than they shoot. We got two out of three, we just couldn’t get to the line.”
Joyce was pleased with how the St. V-M was able to get the ball to the rim, but while trying to play at a faster pace, they missed a couple of close attempts at the basket.
“We made some bad passes, rushed things early, but we did get the ball to the rim,” Joyce said. “We knew that they were undersized — we must have missed eight layups in the first half. We knew that they were undersized and we knew that they played hard. That’s who they are. We understood that.”
St. V-M shot 44 percent from the field and only attempted nine free throws. The Irish shot 59 percent in the second half.
In the final quarter, the Irish also began making the extra pass, recording assists on four of their five baskets to start the fourth quarter. The lone exception was a layup by senior Jordan Hargrove (six points) off a steal. Hargrove had three assists, including one on a 3-pointer to Hudson that put the game out of reach.
Senior Fransohn Bickley led the Irish with four assists. Junior Jarel Woolridge had back-to-back assists early in the fourth quarter that extended St. V-M’s lead to 45-39 with six minutes remaining.
After Hudson scored six points in a row to break the tie, Wells made two baskets and a free throw around Hargrove’s steal, giving the Irish a 50-42 lead four minutes into the fourth quarter.
Buchtel senior Tyler Jones and senior Demonte Hicks led the Griffins with 10 points each. Junior Ci’Andre Johnson-Lollar and Lemontre’ Smith and sophomore Deric Rucker all added six points.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.