Buckeye's Justin Canedy blocks a shot by Keystone's Brody Kuhl during the third quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
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LaGRANGE — When the game is on the line, Keystone senior Brody Kuhl comes through every time.
Kuhl grabbed a defensive rebound with 5.4 seconds left, dribbled into the frontcourt and calmly buried a 25-footer as time expired Friday, giving the Wildcats a 40-38 victory over Buckeye in a Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division showdown.
The heartbreaking loss knocked the Bucks (12-5, 9-3) out of a first-place tie with Wellington with four games left. The Dukes beat Buckeye 53-49 three nights earlier in a contest that played out in similar fashion.
“Give credit to Keystone. Kuhl hit a great shot and they deserved to win the game,” said Bucks coach Tom Harrington, whose team trailed 22-7 in the second quarter. “We got off to a poor start again, and I’m not sure why that keeps happening.
“We need to get back to work at practice, figure out how to come out better in the first quarter and just move forward from this. It was another tough loss for us.”
It was the second game-winning shot of the season for Kuhl, who now owns five buzzer-beaters or last-second hoops in four years as a starter. He converted a four-point play with 0.7 seconds left on Jan. 14 to stun Elyria 48-47.
The 6-foot-1 center drained a 40-footer as the clock hit zero in the first quarter, foreshadowing what was to come three periods later. Kuhl finished with game highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds in keeping Keystone (12-4, 7-3) in the PAC Stars title hunt.
“Most kids feel uncomfortable in that spot, knowing everything is in their hands, but Brody relishes it,” said Wildcats coach Jeff Holzhauer, who bear-hugged his leading scorer as he walked off the court. “He has come through that way multiple times in his career because he loves the moment.”
Junior shooting guard Anthony Watkins topped Buckeye with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while junior point guard Brock Brumfield had 12 points, five boards and a game-high five assists.
They scored all eight of the Bucks’ points in the final 8ﾽ minutes, including Brumfield’s 3-pointer with 3:33 left that put them ahead for the first time at 36-35. Brumfield followed with two free throws before Ethan Sokolowski made a layup for the hosts with 1:50 remaining.
Buckeye missed the front end of two one-and-ones in the final nine seconds, the second of which wound up in Kuhl’s hands. He grabbed the rebound and was not picked up defensively — or fouled, as the Bucks had one to give — before pulling up from the right wing with his dagger.
“We weren’t locked in and we didn’t execute at the end,” Watkins said. “Coach told us we had one foul to give and one timeout, but we didn’t use either. We have to have better focus than that.
“But the game wouldn’t have been that close if we didn’t have that big hole to dig out of early. It seems like we love to play the comeback game, but it’s cost us two straight times and has to stop.”
Aaron Drew made three 3-pointers off the bench for the Bucks, while Carter Hudak had four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks.
The officials stopped play twice in the second half because they thought Harrington had called a timeout. He hadn’t, and it hurt the Bucks, who were in position to score both times.
l Drew scored 11 points for Buckeye’s junior varsity in a 47-31 win.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keystone 40, Buckeye 38
BUCKEYE 4 13 13 8 — 38
KEYSTONE 18 9 8 5 — 40
Buckeye — Spencer Imes 0-0-0, Carter Hudak 0-1-1, Justin Canedy 0-0-0, Anthony Watkins 4-3-13, Brock Brumfield 3-4-12, Mike Knoll 1-0-3, Adam Fauver 0-0-0, Aaron Drew 3-0-9. TOTALS: 11-8-38.
Keystone — Kevin Mealwitz 2-0-4, Matt Mealwitz 0-0-0, Brody Kuhl 7-3-21, Ethan Sokolowski 4-1-9, Drake Rodick 0-0-0, Jeremy Gerhardinger 2-0-4, Mason Strader 1-0-2, Johnny Saxton 0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-4-40.
3-point goals — Drew 3, Watkins 2, Brumfield 2, Knoll, Kuhl 4. Rebounds —Buckeye 28 (Watkins 10), Keystone 27 (Kuhl 11). Assists — Buckeye 9 (Brumfield 5), Keystone 9 (K.Mealwitz, M.Mealwitz 3). Records — Buckeye (12-5, 9-3), Keystone (12-4, 7-3). Juniorvarsity — Buckeye 47, Keystone 31.