YORK TWP. — Point guard Brock Brumfield was struggling and the Buckeye boys basketball team was struggling right along with him.
Then the senior righted himself and his team as the Bucks pulled away for a 56-42 non-league win over Tallmadge on Tuesday night.
“When we’re down and we need to rely on someone to get a bucket to get us going, Brock is our guy,” 6-foot-7 power forward Michael Knoll said. “He’s a great scorer and a great point guard.”
Up 11 early in the second period and seemingly on their way to an easy win, Brumfield and the Bucks (18-3) started rushing 3-pointers and missing pull-up jumpers while falling behind 33-30 with 3:47 left in the third period.
At that point, Brumfield had missed eight straight shots after making his first two, but he quickly rose to the occasion when the stakes were their highest.
First, Brumfield assisted on a bucket by Knoll (20 points, 5 rebounds). Then he hit four straight shots, most on mid-range jumpers off the dribble, as Buckeye closed the quarter on a 10-0 run.
The 5-foot-11 senior added his team’s first hoop of the fourth period and another as the Bucks closed on a 26-9 run.
It wasn’t a typical 16-point, three-rebound, five-assist night for Brumfield, but he once again came through.
“We were really struggling to score, and he kind of took over,” Bucks coach Tom Harrington said. “Without that run by him, I’m not sure we win the game.”
The Blue Devils (10-11) got as close as four with 5:45 to play, but a 3-pointer by Anthony Watkins (13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) started an 11-0 run that included another bucket and assist from Brumfield.
“Coach gave me a lot of confidence,” Brumfield said. “He came up to me and said, ‘Just keep shooting.’ When I saw one go in, it was on from there.”
Not to be overlooked was Buckeye’s defense against a Suburban League American Conference team that came in averaging 65.1 points, only to be held to a season low.
Tallmadge power forward Brandon Heigelmann led the Blue Devils with nine points, four rebounds and three assists, but the 21-point scorer didn’t get on the board until the 6:49 mark of the third quarter thanks to a great effort from the Bucks’ Dom Monaco, who repeatedly cut off baseline drive attempts. Heigelmann, who finished 4-for-13 from the field, was 0-for-6 in the first half after going 0-for-5 in the first two periods Friday at Highland.
With point guard Nick Hussing out with the flu, the Blue Devils moved rugged Sam Seeker, who likes to drive, lower his shoulder and create contact, to point guard. The lefty finished with decent stats — eight points, four rebounds, three assists — but went 3-for-14 from the field.
Hounded all night by Watkins, Seeker missed nine straight shots at one point as the Blue Devils scored five points in the first period, 10 in the third and nine in the fourth on combined 10-for-33 shooting.
The Bucks, meanwhile, regrouped and went 14-for-21 from the floor in the second half, with Brumfield making six of his eight shots.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘We need to finish this one off,’” the point guard said. “They’re a good team from a good league.
“Not every shot is going to be a great one. Of course that’s what we want, but we’ve got to figure out the best shots and get what we want.”
What the Bucks want now is to tie or break a school record. With their 18th victory, they matched the 1957-58 team for the third-most wins in a season. Buckeye won 19 games in 2016-17 and 21 in 2014-15.
“We bring it up and keep it in the back of our head,” Knoll said. “We definitely want to break the record and get 22 wins.”
The easiest path to doing so would mean beating Wellington in the regular-season finale on Friday and Brookside in the North Ridgeville Division III Sectional/District opener to get to 20.
Fairview, which lost to the Bucks in overtime in the regular season, likely would await in a sectional final, with top-seeded Cleveland Central Catholic the most likely opponent should the Bucks reach the district semifinals with a chance to get to 22.
“A lot of people overlook us,” Brumfield said. “We’re small, little Buckeye, but when it comes down to it, we’re one of the best teams in the county. There’s a lot of good teams out there, but I think we can compete with any of them.”
Buckeye won the junior varsity game 59-37 behind double-figure scoring games from Danny Flood (15), Zach Weber (12), Pat Midea (10) and Andrew Geteian (10). The Bucks weren’t called for a foul until the 4:15 mark of the third period.
Buckeye 56, Tallmadge 42
TALLMADGE 5 18 10 9 — 42
BUCKEYE 14 11 15 16 — 56
Tallmadge — Jake Gardella 3-0-9, Brandon Heigelmann 4-0-9, Daniel Kurko 2-1-5, Luke Thomas 3-0-8, Sam Seeker 3-2-8, Sean Ambrose 0-0-0, Ethan Taylor 0-0-0, Andrew Ayres 0-0-0, Steve Zesiger 0-0-0, Nate Zappola 0-0-0, Nick Joyner 1-0-3, Liam Tokash 0-0-0. TOTALS: 16-3-42.
Buckeye — Cam Imes 1-0-3, Michael Knoll 8-1-20, Dom Monaco 1-0-2, Anthony Watkins 5-0-13, Brock Brumfield 8-0-16, Aaron Drew 0-0-0, Clay Gunkelman 0-0-0, Elijah Walker 0-0-0, Jamie Geteian 1-0-2, Pat Midea 0-0-0. TOTALS: 24-1-56.
3-point goals — Gardella 3, Thomas 2, Heigelmann, Joyner, Knoll 3, Watkins 3, Imes. Rebounds — Tallmadge 21 (Kurko 9), Buckeye 23 (Watkins 6). Assists — Tallmadge 8 (Seeker, Heigelmann 3), Buckeye 13 (Brumfield, Watkins 5). Records — Tallmadge (10-11), Buckeye (18-3). Junior varsity — Buckeye 59, Tallmadge 37.