It was a basketball game that seemed destined to come down to one final nervous possession. Host Ellet had other ideas Thursday.
For nearly 3½ quarters, Ellet and Buchtel traded the lead with neither gaining an advantage. Then quicker than you can say Dynasti Smith-Malone, the Orangemen (4-4, 4-2) put up 10 points in a row and seized control for a 46-34 win in a City Series game.
Smith-Malone scored six of those 10 and nine of her game-high 13 points in the decisive fourth quarter. Credit strong performances from a couple of players off the bench, as well.
“I had some kids in there that provided a lot of energy,” Ellet coach Tina Wallace said. “I thought Meghan Rorar came off the bench and did a great job. She’s a great defender but she gave us some points, which is always nice.”
Rorar, a 5-foot-6 junior, had two steals, two rebounds and two free throws down the stretch. Teonna Sharpey, a 5-6 sophomore, also came in with two rebounds, two free throws and an assist.
Smith-Malone, who plays bigger than her listed height of 5-5, used strength and box-out ability to grab a team-high 10 rebounds. She is also one of two senior leaders for Ellet and a three-year starter, as is point guard Kendra Love.
“My idea of playing is to do the small things,” Smith-Malone said. “I don’t necessarily focus on scoring points because it’s the little things that matter, the hustling, the rebounding and I think that is one of my stronger suits, just trying to play where I fit.”
She made a jumper that put the Orangemen ahead 33-31 with 4:58 left. After a steal by 5-10 freshman Yolanda Smith, Smith-Malone made a layup off a Rorar feed. She assisted on a Smith basket, and after Rorar made two free throws, Smith-Malone drove to the basket and made a nifty bank shot for a 41-31 lead.
Meanwhile, Buchtel was hampered by 10 turnovers in the quarter, and Ellet made five free throws to complete a 15-1 run, making it 46-32.
Smith scored seven of her 12 points in the quarter and had seven rebounds. Love added nine points.
The late burst made up for a sluggish first three quarters offensively for Ellet. Smith-Malone said Ellet’s reserves provided the needed lift.
“The key was the players coming off the bench,” she said. “Big ups to Meghan and Teonna. They brought a spark to the floor that we actually needed and we were missing the whole night. They provided us with this energy to help push us to the win and that’s why I love playing with my team.”
Buchtel (2-6, 2-3) led 11-6 early in the second quarter and took an 18-16 halftime lead after driving layups by junior Chianne Crisp and freshman Daichelle Hatcher. The Griffins were ahead 22-18 before Ellet scored seven of the last nine points of the third quarter for a 25-24 lead.
But no Buchtel player scored more than five points, and many of the 31 total turnovers were self-inflicted.
Junior Tionne El-Amin was one of four Griffins with five points and had a game-high 13 rebounds.
“It was a very winnable game,” said first-year Buchtel coach Brian Neugebauer, who served as a boys assistant for 19 years at several area schools. “We’re young, they haven’t experienced winning right now. They have to learn how to finish games. It’s rough. But it’s going to come. We just have to keep working on it.”
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