Buckeye Local rallies by Bellaire, 55-53

Tommy Hamilton has been a big asset to the Panthers this season, coming off the bench and giving his teammates a boost in the paint. Friday night, he came close to a triple-double and Buckeye Local needed every bit of that against a feisty Bellaire Big Red squad.

Hamilton’s effort was much needed as the Panthers rallied from a 13-point deficit to pull out a thrilling 55-53 win over the homestanding Big Reds in Bellaire Friday night.

Coach Jay Morris’ Panthers rebounded from a heart-breaking, last-second loss to Harrison Central on Tuesday night with the win. The Panthers improved to 5-6 on the season and will be looking to get to .500 tonight when they travel to Weir.

Coach J. R. Battista’s Big Reds fell to 1-10 on the season, but showed considerable improvement.

“We have really been struggling shooting the ball,” Morris said after the win. “We only converted six of 17 free throws, but I was glad to see us come out with that 19-6 run in the third quarter after being down.

“You just can’t take anybody lightly,” he added. “I thought (Bellaire) played a very good game tonight. We were fortunately to have Tommy Hamilton come off the bench and play as well as he did. That was a real boost for us.”

Hamilton, who is starting to see more extensive varsity action, finished the night with 13 points, nine rebounds and six block shots.

“The coaches always tell me that when I go in they want me to try to block as many shots as I can,” Hamilton said after the close encounter. “I really like to block shots. Every time I block a shot, that’s two points that the opponent doesn’t get and hopefully it gives us a chance to get two.”

“I felt pretty good out there,” Hamilton added. “I didn’t play a lot of varsity last year, so this is very different for me this year. I’m starting to play more and I feel comfortable out there.”

After Kyle Michalo opened the scoring with a bucket for the Panthers, Bellaire reeled off eight straight, getting five from Nathan Steele, a foul conversion by Kenny Hess and a bucket by Ryan Callarik. Buckeye bounced back with John Rozenek, Michalo and Brennen Czuchran pulling the Panthers to within 8-7.

Bellaire continued to take advantage of Buckeye’s poor shooting and untimely turnovers to eventually build a15-9 lead at the first break.

In the second frame, the teams battled back and forth until the Big Reds found the hot-handed Hunter Westlake who drained three consecutive two-pointers to push the Bellaire lead to 28-17. Czuchran countered for the visitors, but Steele converted a layup and followed that with a bucket from the corner as the hosts opened a 32-19 lead. Czuchran canned a jumper and Shane Duncan converted a three-point play to narrow the gap to 32-24 at the half.

Trailing 36-28 early in the third, Buckeye went on a 15-1 run paced by the scoring of Caleb Agnew, Michalo, Czuchran and a red-hot Hamilton to regain and open a 43-37 lead. Buckeye led by 43-38 entering the final session.

“I?thought we played well in the first half, but Buckeye made the plays down the stretch that decided the outcome,”?Battista said. “They took the victory. We had chances down the stretch, but we didn’t make enough plays.”

Steele opened the fourth with a layup and Hess added a foul marker to close to within 43-42, but Czuchran drove the lane for a bucket, Rozenek put back a rebound and Czuchran swished from the corner to open a 49-42 upperhand.

Buckeye had opened a 52-43 lead in the final minutes before the hosts bounced back to cut the margin to 52-48. Czuchran scored from the corner and Hamilton netted one of two at the line to push the lead to 55-48. Hess led a late charge for the Big Reds, converting a shot from the top of the key, then converting a three-point play with 47 seconds left. Bellaire had one more opportunity to knot the score in the final seconds but the shot was off the mark.

Michalo led the Buckeye scorers with 15 points while Czuchran added 14 to go with Hamilton’s 13. Rozenek closed with 10 rebounds to go with Hamilton’s nine.

Steele led all scorers with 22 markers. Hess closed with 17 and Westlake added 12. Callarik led the Big Reds on the boards with seven rebounds while Hess had six.

In the prelim, Buckeye notched a 42-20 win as Jonathan Borkoski had nine points. V

arsity scoring:

BUCKEYE LOCAL (55) – Czuchran 7, 0-2 14; Agnew 2, 1-2 5; Williams 0, 0-0 0; Duncan 1, 1-2 3; Rozenek 2, 1-4 5; Michalo 7, 0-0 15; Hamilton 5, 3-7 13. Totals, 24-62, 6-17. BELLAIRE (53) – Steele 9, 2-5 22; Callarik 1, 0-0 2; Westlake 6, 0-0 12; Back 0, 0-0 0; Patrone 0, 0-0 0; Kovalyk 0, 0-0 0; Hess 4, 9-13 17; Ellson 0, 0-0 0. Totals, 20-49, 11-18.

Three-point goals: Buckeye Local 1 (Michalo). Bellaire 2 (Steele 2).