Buckeye's Anthony Watkins (2) celebrates after assisting on a three point shot by Michael Knoll (11) against Wellington during the third quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
YORK TWP. — For 2½ quarters Friday, the Wellington boys basketball team dictated a slow tempo nicely with a four-corner offense, 2-2-1 press and 2-3 zone.
Then the Dukes failed to dictate taking care of the ball and Buckeye dictated transition passes to 6-foot-7 Michael Knoll.
That’s when a competitive Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division game became ugly, as Buckeye went on a backbreaking run during the third and fourth quarters to emerge by a misleading 57-33 final.
The Bucks (9-2, 7-1), who scored 27 of the final 33 points, are alone in first place after Keystone (7-6, 6-2) was stunned by Firelands (3-7, 3-5).
“It was very slow at the beginning, but we kind of picked it up,” Knoll said.
Fresh off a 25-point outburst against Oberlin, Knoll led all scorers with 24 points, including 12 during a 21-0 run that began with Buckeye leading 30-27 midway through the third. Guard Anthony Watkins (14 points, 5 assists) stayed hot with nine first-half points to keep the Bucks afloat, and Buckeye got impact hustle plays from Clay Gunkelman and Cam Imes, who made his second straight start.
After playing at the Dukes’ slow pace for a bit, the Bucks went to a semi-aggressive 1-3-1 zone that forced Wellington (5-5, 4-4) to move the ball faster than it wanted. The turnovers began to mount with increased frequency as the game plan continued to break down with quarter totals of one, five, five and 11.
Buckeye took advantage more often than not with high-percentage shots — many in transition — en route to shooting 16-for-26 (.615) over the final three quarters. The Dukes, meanwhile, attempted only five shots apiece in the second and fourth quarters, which they lost 30-11.
“They tried to delay, but our kids showed a ton of composure,” Bucks coach Tom Harrington said. “They were outstanding. They never flinched, and every time there was a timeout we said, ‘Just keep playing. Just keep doing what we do.’
“Eventually we thought if we could get a couple stops and get the ball out and go, we’d be all right.”
Wellington led 10-9 after one quarter thanks to six points from undersized center Ryan Whitaker, who finished with team highs of 12 points and five rebounds. Backup guard Ben Bliss recorded four assists and Noah Diermyer added seven points for the Dukes, who trailed 20-15 at halftime after Knoll scored nine points in the second quarter.
The key sequence during the 21-0 run began when Knoll scored inside while being fouled. The senior missed the free throw, but Buckeye got the rebound and eventually got the ball to Knoll for a 3-pointer that gave the Bucks a double-digit lead for the first time at 38-27.
It was all downhill after that for Wellington.
“We started to pressure them and they didn’t know what to do against our 1-3-1,” Knoll said.
Former Buckeye coach Matt Saunders was in attendance and sitting with ex-players Nick Wilson and Brendan Scott.
Nick Miller had 15 points as the Buckseye junior varsity won 58-28.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Buckeye 57, Wellington 33
WELLINGTON 10 5 12 6 — 33
BUCKEYE 9 11 18 19 — 57
Wellington — Parker Adler 2-0-4, Brandon Orozco 0-2-2, Ryan Whittaker 6-0-12, Mason McClellan 2-0-4, Noah Diermyer 3-0-7, Ben Bliss 1-2-4, Cole Standen 0-0-0, Troy Cole 0-0-0, Nick Laposky 0-0-0, Wyatt Sasack 0-0-0, Caleb Teague 0-0-0. TOTALS: 14-4-33.
Buckeye — Cam Imes 2-0-4, Michael Knoll 9-3-24, Dom Monaco 1-1-3, Anthony Watkins 5-2-14, Brock Brumfield 2-2-6, Aaron Drew 0-2-2, Clay Gunkelman 1-2-4, Jamie Geteian 0-0-0, Logan Schulz 0-0-0, Pat Midea 0-0-0, Elijah Walker 0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-12-57.
3-point goals — Diermyer, Knoll 3, Watkins 2. Rebounds — Wellington 13 (Whitaker 5), Buckeye 19 (Drew 4). Assists — Wellington 8 (Bliss 4), Buckeye 12 (Watkins 5). Records — Wellington (5-6, 4-4), Buckeye (9-2, 7-1). Junior varsity — Buckeye 58, Wellington 28.