By John Bombatch
BELLBROOK — For at least one half of boys high school basketball, it looked as if the host Bellbrook Golden Eagles had enough size to give Xenia fits. But the visiting Buccaneers showed they can play some solid pressure defense, and they used that pressure to pull away to a 67-45 nonleague win Tuesday night in Bellbrook’s gym.
The two Greene County teams battled to a 20-20 tie at halftime, with Xenia struggling to hit its shots from 3-point range against the taller Golden Eagles defenders. Xenia hit 23 percent of its shots in the first half (7-for-30 … and 4-of 15 from outside the 3-point arc).
But once the Bucs’ full-court press defense began to rattle Bellbrook in the second half, scoring fortunes changed for Xenia.
“We got us with 12 turnovers in the second half, and them with three. That was certainly a big difference in this game,” Bellbrook coach Perry Caldwell said. “Those turnovers generally led to layups in transition. They hit 19 of their 32 shots in the second half — and most of those were those layups — that’s pretty darned good.”
Bellbrook turned the ball over 21 times for the game. Xenia scored 21 points off those turnovers.
After being held scoreless in the opening quarter, Samari Curtis began to find his range from 3-point land. The Buccaneer freshman finished with a game-high 21 points, including four threes. Rocky James was the other Xenia player to score in double figures, with a dozen points, and teammates Ray James and Brandon Love each finished with nine.
Xenia coach Kent Anderson said he particularly liked how Love found a way to get involved in the scoring against Bellbrook.
“I thought we got some great contributions from our bench tonight,” Anderson said. “They scored and put some pressure on our starters tonight. We got great contributions scoring and energy wise from Garett (Salyers) and Ricky (Williams), and then Brandon Love. It was particularly nice to see Brandon have a game like that, because he’s been really practicing well lately and he’s moving up in the rotation. He played tonight like I think he is capable of playing, and I thought he had an excellent game for us.”
Bellbrook’s John Bush and Trent Nartker led the Golden Eagles with 13 points each. Bush scored 11 of his total in the first half; Nartker scored 11 of his in the second.
Xenia outscored Bellbrook by a 29-12 count in the fourth quarter of play, and they closed out the final 2:49 with a 15-3 run.
“We were able to put enough defensive pressure on them, that we were able to get the tempo to our liking. And that enabled us to get to the rim and finish some buckets in the second half,” Anderson said. “Bellbrook’s kids always play hard. We were finally able to get the tempo to our liking in the second half, and that was the difference.”
Bellbrook (4-9) gets back to Southwestern Buckeye League, Southwestern Division play on Friday when they’ll play a 7:30 p.m. contest in Germantown against Valley View. They will then play a make-up game at home at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Monroe.
Xenia (10-3) has a Friday-Saturday pair of games up next as well, but they’re both at home. They host Fairborn at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a battle for second place in the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s South Division, then they’ll host Springfield Shawnee in a non-league battle at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.