By Scott Halasz
BEAVERCREEK — Haley Hutchins only touched the basketball a few times in the fourth quarter against Centerville Saturday.
But it was quality, not quanity that made the difference. In the decisive final 7 minutes, the 6-foot-3 junior scored five points, made an ultra-athletic save out of bounds leading to a layup, and recorded a ball-flattening block to help the Beavers rack the Elks, 46-40, in Greater Western Ohio Conference action.
“Us as a team, we really wanted to beat Centerville,” Hutchins said with an ear-to-ear smile. “I was doing my very best to help the team get to that point.”
The whammy on a layup attempt by Megan Johnson preserved a one-point ‘Creek lead midway through the fourth. Then minutes later, she converted a conventional three-point play, taking a long pass from Carmen Williams and making the layup as she was fouled. The play ended with an emphatic fist pump, and of course, an elongated smile.
“The past few practices, I had been missing my layups,” she said. “It was just a great moment.”
The first two quarters were one extended great moment for Beavercreek (6-2, 2-1 GWOC National East). The Beavers came out with a new-found aggression on defense and jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, forcing the Elks into a plethora of turnovers.
“We talked about after the Chaminade game, we just weren’t playing with a lot of intensity,” coach Ed Zink said. “We worked on trying to be more intense on defense. They did a good job of it in the first half.”
Centerville battled back and cut it to 10-7 after one, but the Beavers pulled away in the second quarter, opening up a 17-9 lead thanks to a Hutchins basket, three of Bailey Draughn’s game-high 15 points and a Williams fast-break layup. Draughn scored Beavercreek’s final five in the half to give the Beavers a 22-13 halftime lead.
The lead hit 11 (24-13) seconds into the third, but the missed layup bug struck the Beavers, and Centerville took better care of the ball to get back in the game. Beavercreek missed at least six gimmies as Centerville outscored the Beavers, 13-5, with aggressive offensive play from Sam Chable and Emma Stanley (five and three points each).
“We didn’t turn the ball over (in the third quarter),” Centerville coach Adam Priefer said. “We knew that they were pretty aggressive (defensively), we just didn’t take care of the ball.” The Elks had 27 turnovers, but just five in the third. In all the Beavers had 19 steals.
Up 27-26 after three, the Beavers went right inside to Hutchins who made a baby hook for a 29-27 lead. Centerville’s Tori Harrison and Meghan Mattingly sandwiched four free throws around two from Draughn to make the score 31-30 with 5:34 left, setting up Hutchins’ big save.
With the ball going out of bounds, in one motion she jumped, corralled the ball and passed backwards to Draughn, who converted the layup to give the Beavers a 33-30 lead with 5:08 left.
“I was just trying to save it,” Hutchins said, adding when she saw Draughn cut to the basket, she directed the ball in her direction.
That sparked the Beavers, who opened up a 40-32 lead with 1:10 left. The Elks used a barrage of baskets from Chable — eight points in the final minute — to cut the score to 42-20 — with 21.1 seconds left, but Williams and Cori Dilsavor made two freebies each to ice the game.
“The key was we never let them get ahead,” coach Ed Zink said. “We grew up a little bit today. We were able to weather the storm.”
Chable led Centerville (4-2, 1-2) with 13 points, while Mattingly added nine. Keaira Youngblood had seven for Beavercreek, which hosts Springfield Wednesday, Dec. 28 and visits Lebanon Friday, Dec. 30 to close out 2016.