Panthers comeback attempt comes up short in loss at Bellaire

BELLAIRE — Prep varsity basketball games are, by regulation, 32 minutes. And Bellaire needed every second Tuesday night to hold off Buckeye Local inside “The House of Champions.”

The Panthers trimmed an 18-point, third-quarter deficit to two in the fourth. But the Big Reds finished on a 15-5 run to prevail, 89-77, in boys’ action behind a game-high 35 points from Chase Yoho.

“We’re happy we won, and we’re excited we won,” said Bellaire head coach Ben Doyle, now 2-0 guiding his alma mater.

“But, the goal is to improve every day and the expectation is to improve every day. So, we have plenty of things to work on.”

Drake Novak poured 16 of his team-best 34 points during a fourth quarter that saw Buckeye Local (0-2) go from down 13 to down two in almost the blink of an eye.

Novak’s bucket trimmed the Panthers’ deficit to 10 to start the fourth. Mason Brown followed with a 3-point play a short time later. And when Shane Heitz put back a miss with 6:30 left, Buckeye Local trailed by only five.

Heitz, who finished with 20 points, actually kept the Panthers afloat in the third, thanks to a trio of trifectas near the end of the period.

“There was no quit in this team,” Panthers head coach Joe Soos offered. “No quit.”

After Bellaire scored four straight, the Panthers came back with six unanswered, capped by a layup by Novak off a steal of an inbounds pass that made the score 72-69 with 4:37 left.

Yoho responded with a layup at the other end that put the Big Reds back up five, but Novak returned the favor, spinning in the lane to score. He was fouled on the bucket and converted the free throw to bring the Panthers to within two — 74-72 — with three minutes and change remaining.

Yoho was fouled two seconds later and made both attempts. He finished 14 of 16 from the line.

Then, on the Panthers’ ensuing possession, he made, perhaps, the biggest defensive play of the game. With Novak streaking toward the basket, Yoho stripped him of the ball and was fouled. He made both free throws putting the Big Reds up four, setting the stage for final three minutes.

“Chase is completing his game,” Doyle said. “I’ve challenged him to be the defender that guards their big guy. He makes plays. You don’t have to worry about him making plays. That was a great strip.”

Down the stretch, Bellaire held Buckeye Local to one field goal — a Novak 3. Meanwhile, the Big Reds made all but one free throw to pull away.

“They were starting to make shots,” Doyle said of Buckeye Local’s fourth-quarter surge. “And, we didn’t help ourselves in certain situations. We were careless with the ball and had a lot of untimely turnovers.

“They played really well.”

After dropping its season opener last Friday at Toronto, Soos couldn’t have been more pleased with the grit his squad showed down the stretch, especially on the road against one of the area’s top scorers.

“I can’t ask for much more out them,” he said. “They gave it all to us. They gave it all.

“As long as we continue to play like that, I think the wins will come. We only have two kids out there with varsity experience out of that floor and the rest of works in progress. But, I’ll tell you what? I like what I saw out there. It was definitely a big turnaround from (last Friday).”

Bellaire jumped out to a 31-24 lead early in the second quarter. A 10-0 stretched it to 17. Jacob Marthaler keyed the surge with six of his 16 points off the bench. He was also 10 of 11 from the foul line.

“‘Marty’ did a great job,” Doyle said. “He spent a lot of time working in the offseason. We trust him. His performance from the free-throw line isn’t an accident. That’s getting them up every day.”

Jacob Moffo added nine points for the Panthers.

“We left a lot of points on the floor in the first half,” Soos said. “We missed a lot of inside shots. We they would’ve fell it could’ve been a different story. But hey, we’re going home with a good taste in our mouths. I’m kind of anxious to play again.”

The Panthers will, Friday at home against Barnesville. Bellaire welcomes St. Clairsville the same night.

The Big Reds also won the JV game, 53-33.

Bellaire 89, Buckeye Local 77

BUCKEYE LOCAL (77) — Novak 11, 10-14 34; Long 0, 0-0 0; Mills 0, 0-0 0; M.Moffo 2, 1-2 5; Marelli 0, 0-0 0; Roberts 0, 1-2 1; J.Moffo 4, 0-0 9; Heitz 6, 4-6 20; Seaman 2, 0-0 5; Brown 1, 1-1 3. Totals: 26, 17-25 77. BELLAIRE (89) — Ramsay 2, 2-4 7; Marthaler 3, 10-11 16; Yoho 9, 14-16 35; Duffy 1, 3-6 5; Littell 0, 0-0 0; McCarthy 2, 2-3 6; Rejonis 4, 0-0 9; Maupin 2, 0-0 5; Zwack 1, 0-0 3; Sechrest 1, 1-1 3. Totals: 25, 32-41 89.

3-point goals: B– Heitz (4), Novak (2), J.Moffo, Seaman; B — Yoho (3), Ramsay, Rejonis, Zwack, Maupin.