St. Clairsville staves off Union Local

Photo/PAUL KRAJNYAK ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Matt Busby goes up for two points against Union Local’s Elijah Baker during the second half of Friday’s game in Morristown. The Red Devils won, 63-61.

MORRISTOWN — Matt Busby has played in more than 60 games during his two-plus seasons as St. Clairsville’s point guard. So, it was by no coincidence that he was the central figure late in the Red Devils Buckeye 8 game with homestanding Union Local.

When Cal Kildow completed a 4-point play with 25.4 seconds remaining to play, the Jets had sliced a 10-point deficit to one, 60-59. However, Busby, after missing the front end of a two-shot opportunity five ticks later and then waiting through a 60-second timeout by the hosts, knocked the second one down for a 61-59 reading.

“I was thinking ‘wow’ I’ve got to make this next one,” he said of his thoughts during the waiting game. “You’ve just got to keep your mind focused.”

With Union Local setting up for a possible game-tying-or-winning shot, Busby came up with a key steal and was fouled as he went in for a layup with 4.0 on the clock. He meshed both shots this time as St. Clairsville held on, 63-61, before a nice-sized crowd inside ‘The Hangar.’ The Jets scored an uncontested basket at the buzzer.

“I saw my guy coming up the court and I knew they were going to reverse the ball to him,” Busby explained of his defensive gem. “I just had to get the jump on it and I read it pretty good.”

“Matt has the perfect demeanor for this game. Things didn’t go his way there for a couple of minutes, but he’s a three-year starter for us and that’s what he’s going to do,” first-year St. Clairsville head coach Ryan Clifford offered. “He missed a couple of foul shots, but he made the big steal to win the game. That’s what he gives us. That’s why he’s a captain.”

Clifford knew the game wouldn’t be a repeat of his team’s 83-42 rout early in the season.

“We watched the film from the first game and we knew tonight was going to be harder. We played really well that first night, and they didn’t. That was the reason for that score,” he said.

“We tell our guys that there is nothing harder than beating a league team on the road. It’s hard. The thing that happened at the end of the third quarter wouldn’t happen when you’re at home,” he said of Kildow’s off-balance, left-handed heave over a defender that banked in ahead of the buzzer that cut the Red Devils lead from 10 to seven. “That ball bounces off the rim.”

For Union Local head coach Zach Delman, it was another tough loss where his squad playing well enough to win on certain nights.

“I felt like we had something to prove from the first time we met over there,” Delman explained. “I give credit to my kids for coming out here tonight and accomplishing the game plan we had set out for them. We tried to take away St. Clairsville’s strength and we felt that is their perimeter shooting is their strength.

“We got out on them and tried to make them do other things. Credit to them. They attacked the basket well and (Craig) Bober had a real nice game for them, but I thought we did what we had to do to stay in the game. We executed at times on the things we focused on in practice and, unfortunately, we came up a little bit short.”

Craig Bober led St. Clairsville with 22 points, while Busby added 17 and Justin Heatherington 11. Busby and Heatherington each landed eight rebounds. Bober had seven and three blocks.

Kildow tallied a game-best 25 points, including 14 in the third quarter and 21 in the second half. He also tied for team honors with seven caroms. Elijah Baker had 13 points and Stuart White eight points and seven rebounds.

St. Clairsville misfired on its first 13 shots from behind the bonus arc until David Lane connected in the fourth quarter.

“That’s why this (game) is fun. You come out here with a big crowd … the students into it,” Clifford noted. “Our mental toughness was tested tonight. We are a fantastic shooting team and we couldn’t make one tonight. I don’t know that we’ve gone three minutes in a game without making a three and we went three quarters without making one tonight. The credit to our kids, however, is we’ve talked since the beginning of June about when our shots aren’t going in are we going to be able to find another way to win, and we did.

“We rode Craig (Bober) down the stretch. Justin (Heatherington) gave us unbelievable energy early on before getting into foul troubles. It was a different guy each minute, but we found a way to win and I couldn’t be happier.”

St. Clairsville had 38 rebounds and only seven turnovers. Union Local, meanwhile, committed 12 miscues and pulled down 35 missed shots.