By John Bombatch
YELLOW SPRINGS — Whether it was slowing their opponent down with defense, working the fast break offense, finding ways to score inside or simply hitting their free throws, visiting Xenia Legacy Christian got the job done Tuesday night, in a 68-60 win over an improving Yellow Springs squad.
The Knights withstood an outside scoring clinic put on by the Bulldogs’ Tony Marinelli, with some help from Andrew Clark, in the opening quarter. Marinelli canned three straight 3-pointers, and Clark hit one of his own, to help give Yellow Springs an 18-12 lead after one quarter. But LCA rallied to out-score the Bulldogs 18-9 in the second quarter and stayed out front the rest of the way.
And then Erik Uszynski got the Knights’ inside game going in the second half. The 6-foot-3 sophomore scored 13 of his team-high 17 points from the baseline in the second half. And when Uszynski wasn’t scoring inside, David Kensinger (14 points, eight in the fourth quarter) was, or Ashton Burke was at the line draining free throws.
As a team, LCA hit 17 of 18 free-throw tries for the game. Burke, who finished with 15 points, was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line and 6-of-6 down the stretch.
Oh, and the Knights’ Keano Hammerstrom quietly tossed in 14 points of his own.
“A conference win and taking care of business on the road, this was big,” Legacy Christian coach Brad Newsome said. “We tried to be strong in our defensive transitions, and then (offensively) we tried to get the ball to our key guys at half court. … We gave up too many of the long shots in that first quarter. That kept them in the contest early on.”
LCA is now 7-5 overall, 3-2 in the Metro Buckeye Conference. They’ll next host MBC foe Miami Valley at 7 p.m. Friday.
Yellow Springs’ Marinelli ended up with a game-high 19 points, but he was plagued with foul trouble for much of the second half. Andrew Clark scored 16 points for the Bulldogs, and Joe Plumer scored 10 points in the second half to finish with 14.
The Bulldogs may have lost their fourth straight game, and ninth out of their first 10, but coach Bobby Crawford sees the team showing improvement with each game.
“They made more ‘We’ plays than we did, the plays where it’s a team effort and not about one’s self. But we’re getting better. We’re a very young team, but I see us improving. For most of these kids, it’s their first time playing varsity basketball. Joe (Plumer) is the only one that you can tell is playing intense basketball for the entire game. Tony (Marinelli) is almost there, and Andrew (Clark) is getting there as well. But there are a lot of younger guys — Christian (Elam), Trey (Anderson) and Augie (Knenemeyer) — they’re just learning about what it takes to win a varsity basketball game. It’s not easy. But we’re practicing better, and you’re seeing that improvement out on the court on game day.
“It takes 90 days to create a new habit. I’ve had these kids for about 60 days so far. If we keep improving like this, nobody’s going to want to play us in the post season.”
Yellow Springs hits the road on Friday, Jan. 13 for its next game. They’ll play at 7 p.m. at Dayton Christian then.
Coincidentally, the OHSAA post season tournament is about 30 days away, almost the 90th day Crawford will have been working with the Bulldogs.