Panthers defeat Big Reds

RAYLAND – Buckeye Local senior standout Brennan Czuchran was on fire Friday night. His sights weren’t set on breaking any school records and were set on helping his team pick up a win. He accomplished one out of two.

Ripping the nets for a near-school record 37 points, Czuchran paced the Panthers as Buckeye notched its second win of the season with an exciting 79-68 decision over visiting Bellaire.

Czuchran, a four-year starter who has been more of a contributor than a scorer during his career, netted a trey, 10 two-pointers and a sparkling 14 for 16 performance from the charity stripe.

It was one of the more exciting contests on the Panther court as coach Greg Haberfield’s Buckeye quint bounced back from consecutive losses at the tail end of 2013 with a win in their first outing of the new year. The Panthers improved to 2-5 and will look for a third win tonight when they travel to Weir.

J. R. Battista’s Big Reds were on a roll lately winning four straight and improving to 6-3 before recent losses to St. Clairsville and Buckeye dropped the Bellaire cages to 6-5. They will be looking to rebound tonight when they host Harrison Central.

“They really bought into what we have been telling them tonight,” Haberfield said. “They played with a high intensity. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. We have been struggling lately, but they played extremely well tonight.

“I’m hoping we turned the corner as a team and will start thinking of winning. A lot of things have to fall into place and tonight a lot of those things did all into place.

“Brennen did a great job tonight. He played very well, but I was impressed with the way our kids came off the bench and contributed.”

In the second, Czuchran opened with a layup off a steal, but Bellaire managed to pull to within one at 21-20. Buckeye would see leads of 28-20 and 34-23 nearly wiped off the boards before Borkoski closed the half with a layup as Buckeye led 36-31 at the intermission.

“We just started out slow and just couldn’t defend them and stop the ball on defense,” Battista said. “And we just could do anything to stop Czuchran and he made a lot of foul shots.

“They just played better than us and they deserved to win. We didn’t shot well and we didn’t make enough winning plays. It’s just simple, they played better and they played harder.”

Czuchran opened the second half with a layup giving Buckeye a 38-31 lead, but Bellaire knocked in nine straight, with four from Ramsay, three from Hess and a deuce from Neal to pull ahead of the Panthers by 40-38. The rest of the session was back and forth before the hosts closed with five straight and a 55-51 lead.

Neal gave the Big Reds a two-pointer to open the final frame, but an 11-point run by the Panthers proved to be too much for the visitors to rally from in the closing minutes. Dokes canned one of two at the line, Damien Beall netted a layup, Donahue added a marker from the line and Czuchran meshed four straight at the line to open a 64-53 lead. Czuchran would finish the frame with a 13-14 effort at the stripe.

Czuchran closed with his 37-point performance as well as grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out five assists. Dokes finished with 17 points and six boards, while Beall had nine points and Borkoski had eight.

Hess led the Big Reds with 23 points, Neal was right behind with 18, Ramsay added 10 points to go with 10 rebounds and six blocks, Nathan Steele had nine and Ryan Callarik tossed in eight.