Firestone senior guard Ja’Tice Shaw resembled a bulldog when he got into a defensive stance Friday night.
Shaw squatted low and used footwork similar to a boxer ready to go the distance in a ring.
Shaw’s disruptive effort, coupled with the scoring of seniors Kevin Gladney and Jerome Lane, helped host Firestone defeat Buchtel 67-59 in a City Series showdown.
The win, Firestone’s fourth in a row over Buchtel, puts the Falcons (11-7, 10-1) in sole possession of first place in the league with one game remaining at Kenmore. The Griffins (11-4, 8-2) drop into a tie for second with East (10-5, 8-2).
“My mindset is to basically come every game and give my teammates everything I have got,” said Shaw, who is 5-foot-10 and 222 pounds. “This is one of the biggest rivalries in the City. I would have to say this is the biggest rivalry in the city. I try to give 110 percent.”
The West Akron rivals were tied 15-15 after one quarter. Firestone built a 32-26 halftime edge and led 44-43 after three quarters.
The Falcons separated from the Griffins in the fourth quarter with a 16-4 run and led 60-47 with 3:18 to go. The Griffins rallied but got no closer than six points.
Gladney, a 6-4 forward, scored 10 points in the fourth quarter. He finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
“Our mindset was to just stay up and keep the composure up within the team,” Gladney said. “We wanted to keep our run going and just keep scoring.”
Lane, a 6-5 forward, contributed seven points in the fourth quarter. He finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
“To start the fourth quarter, we came out ready to play hard,” Lane said. “Our real downfall through our whole season has been the third quarter. We really wanted to come out and play hard in the third quarter to set the tone for the fourth quarter.”
Shaw totaled nine points, four steals and three assists. Junior Evan Kennerly added nine points and six rebounds.
“Kevin and J.T. are obviously the ones I want to get the ball to, but the other guys know that because of them being double-teamed, they are going to get opportunities,” Firestone coach Dave Milo said. “They took advantage of those opportunities today.”
Senior Demonte Hicks and junior Tre Smith helped Buchtel lead 13-5 midway through the first quarter, but the Griffins were unable to maintain it.
“We didn’t stop Gladney,” Buchtel coach Stephen White said. “He kept dribbling the basketball all the way down the court and we never stopped the ball. He kept scoring, or he would come down and force up a shot, and then something would happen where somebody else would grab the ball and put it in the basket. We did not rebound and we did not stop the basketball.”
Hicks finished with 15 points and five rebounds. Smith had 12 points and eight rebounds. The Griffins also got nine points from sophomore LaShawn Johnson and seven points and eight rebounds from senior Elijah Bell.
White said he was not happy with Buchtel’s 7-of-27 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc. Buchtel has East and North remaining on its league schedule. East has Buchtel and Kenmore.
The City Series playoff championship is Feb. 15.
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.