YORK TWP. — To anyone who attended the Buckeye-Keystone boys basketball game Friday night: Feel free to close your jaw now.
Buckeye players Mikey Novick, Braeden Stauffer, Joey Bartinelli, Carter Hudak, Justin Canedy and Spencer Imes could see the outright Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division championship within their grasp. The opponent didn’t matter. The Bucks were going to get the job done.
What took place was nothing short of breathtaking, as Buckeye played a near-perfect first half to dismantle two-time defending champion Keystone in a no-doubt-about-it 56-38 victory.
The Bucks (15-4, 12-3), who scored 31 of the first 37 points, were all smiles as they cut down the nets.
“It feels good to be conference champion,” Novick said. “We put in a lot of hard work going into the season and it’s starting to pay off, but we’ve got more work to do.
“We came in with the expectation that we wanted this one more. Our defense got us open shots, and we worked the zone a lot better than the first game.”
More than a month removed from a frustrating 42-31 loss at Keystone (10-10, 9-6), Buckeye had plenty of time to dissect the Wildcats’ matchup 2-3. Coach Tom Harrington came up with multiple options, including a complementing 2-2-1 press that frustrated the Wildcats’ young guards.
With the Bucks in rhythm offensively and dominating the glass, Stauffer and Bartinelli were firing from everywhere. Guard-turned-power forward Hudak was the main zone-buster as a high-post passer, while Novick flourished throwing long-range flares and short-range swing passes.
Up 17-6 after one quarter, Buckeye unleashed another option with jumping-jack center Canedy flashing baseline. The junior scored seven points in a 1:30 span, including a two-handed dunk off a nifty in-traffic flip from Novick that put the Bucks up 31-6 with 3 minutes to go in the half.
Though Keystone went into halftime on an active 6-0 run, the outcome was never in doubt. The Wildcats pulled the zone down 33-12 with 5:40 left in the third quarter, allowing Buckeye to burn time using its base drive-and-kick offense.
That led to the home student section gleefully chanting “This is bor-ing” late in the third.
“We executed what we wanted to offensively and defensively,” Harrington said. “We knew the start was critical because of the way they play. For us to get off to that good start, that really set us in the right direction for the whole night.”
Canedy led Buckeye with a game-high 18 points and hammered another two-handed slam in the fourth. One minute earlier, he was fouled trying to dunk yet settled for a quasi-layup and completed the three-point play.
Bartinelli had 13 points, Stauffer added 13 and seven rebounds and Novick had an all-around line of six points, six boards and five assists. Toss in machine-like hustle from Hudak (3 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) and an instant-offense 3-pointer from sixth man Imes and the Bucks weren’t going to be denied.
Keystone shot 8-for-28 through three quarters and piled up garbage-time stats with 18 fourth-quarter points. Physical guard Brody Kuhl (17 points) hustled until the final buzzer, but great fronting defense from the 6-1 Hudak limited 6-6, 215-pound Jeremy Gerhardinger to five points — 15 fewer than he had in the Jan. 13 home win.
Harrington began the net-cutting ceremony with son Thomas in tow. Novick finished and raised the net above his head, drawing a roar from the Buckeye faithful.
Smartphones were everywhere on a picture-perfect night.
“The game definitely had a little more emotion to it because they’ve been the champions the past two years,” Stauffer said. “We proved who was a better team today even though they beat us earlier in the regular season.”
Aaron Drew had seven points as Buckeye’s junior varsity lost 31-21.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Buckeye 56, Keystone 38
KEYSTONE 6 6 8 18 — 38
BUCKEYE 17 14 12 13 — 56
Keystone — Turner Campbell 4-1-10, Corey Moffat 0-0-0, Jeremy Gerhardinger 2-0-5, Brody Kuhl 6-3-17, Kevin Mealwitz 1-0-2, Matt Mealwitz 1-0-2, Drake Rodick 0-0-0, Kyle Sherrill 1-0-2, Johnny Saxton 0-0-0, Ethan Sokolowski 0-0-0, Tyler Keger 0-0-0. TOTALS: 15-4-38.
Buckeye — Joey Bartinelli 4-2-13, Carter Hudak 1-1-3, Justin Canedy 8-2-18, Braeden Stauffer 5-0-13, Mikey Novick 2-1-6, Spencer Imes 1-0-3, Brock Brumfield 0-0-0, Anthony Watkins 0-0-0, Michael Doerge 0-0-0, Michael Knoll 0-0-0, Cameron Imes 0-0-0, Eric Knierim 0-0-0. TOTALS: 21-6-56.
3-point goals — Kuhl 2, Campbell, Gerhardinger, Bartinelli 3, Stauffer 3, Novick, S. Imes. Rebounds — Keystone 20 (Gerhardinger 6), Buckeye 26 (Stauffer 7). Assists — Keystone 7 (K. Mealwitz 5), Buckeye 13 (Novick 5). Records — Keystone (10-10, 9-6), Buckeye (15-4, 12-3). Junior varsity — Keystone 31, Buckeye 21.