As the ball clanged off the rim throughout the first eight minutes, Greeneview High School boys basketball coach Kyle Fulk told his team to rely on defense and rebounding.
Trailing by 11 points in the first quarter, the Rams mounted an early second-half comeback and held on in the waning moments to beat Greenon 54-52 in a key Ohio Heritage Conference South Division game on Friday night in Enon.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle, a road game in a tough gym to play in,” Fulk said. “It was a great atmosphere tonight. We got off to a slow start offensively. We told them at halftime, offensively it may have been the worst half we’ve played all year. We’ve been preaching defense and rebounding and that kept us within reach.”
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Junior Cole Allen scored 21 points and junior Rhett Burtch had 12 points as the Rams (15-4, 11-2) took over first place in the division. Greeneview leads Cedarville (13-4, 10-3) by one game and Greenon (10-6, 9-4) by two games with three divisional games remaining for all three teams.
Sophomore Jaden Journell had a game-high 22 points and junior Cade Rice added 12 for the Knights.
“The kids were extremely focused,” said Knights coach Matt McCurdy. “We told them it was going to be possession-by-possession and their guys were just a little bit more focused in terms of every single possession. We had some errant passes that they go down and convert and get and-ones make free throws.”
The Knights stormed out of the game, taking a 14-3 lead after one quarter. The Rams answered immediately, exploding for 19 second quarter points, cutting the lead to 29-22 at the half.
Greeneview opened the third period on a 12-4 run, taking its first lead of the game on two free throws by senior Gabe Caudill. The score was tied at 39 heading into the final eight minutes.
“In the second half, we just told them to go out and compete,” Fulk said. “If a bad play happens, just compete harder. If you get a call you don’t like, compete harder. Our kids did a great job of staying focused.”
Greeneview also got several second chance points on offensive rebounds and hit four of its six 3-pointers in the second half.
“It was a rough first quarter, but our kids battled all the way down to the end,” Fulk said. “I love these guys.”
The Rams took a 52-49 lead on a putback by Allen, then extended the lead to 54-49 on two made free throws by Allen.
Journell banked in a 3-pointer with about 10 seconds remaining to cut the Rams’ lead to two points. After two missed free throws, Greenon got the ball back, but Mason Potter’s last-second 3-point attempt fell short.
“Our kids didn’t give up,” McCurdy said. “We’re down five with a minute to go and we don’t have any quit in us. That was a tough shot. Our kids didn’t quit.”
The Rams are seeking their first OHC title since winning three straight from 2011 through 2013. They have three division games remaining against Madison Plains, Cedarville and Southeastern.
“We all know each other,” Fulk said. “It’s on our guys to go out and compete and us as coaches to put them in the right places to win. … Everybody knows what everybody is going to do at this time of the year. It just comes down to executing.”
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