BELLBROOK — An astonished game official stepped away from the scorer’s table and shook his head.
“Man! I didn’t know that Bellbrook and Xenia were rivals!” he said. But that’s how Friday’s Jan. 26 battle between the two Greene County teams appeared, as visiting Xenia came away with a hard-earned 66-59 win.
The game had two technical fouls called and, at one point, fans were ready to charge the court in anger. School officials from both institutions were seen keeping the peace, and the public address announcer requested that “all fans stay in their seats after the game.”
So as the two teams headed to their respective locker rooms, a member of the Bellbrook Police Department and several school officials took to the court, and the fans uncomfortably sat in their seats. After roughly 5 minutes when there was no sign of any potential trouble from either side, the fans were thanked for coming out, and everyone headed home without incident.
Both teams entered Friday’s game in second place in their respective league divisions. Bellbrook (7-7) just came off a big upset win over Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern division leading Franklin four days earlier. Xenia (9-7), in second place in the Greater Western Ohio Conference’s American South, had won four of its last six games, including a solid win at the Flyin’ to the Hoop basketball showcase. So both teams felt pretty good about themselves and didn’t want to lose.
“I don’t think it’s a rivalry. I knew it was Channel 2’s Game of the Week, and our kids were fired up about that. And Xenia brought a great crowd, and we had amazing support as well,” Bellbrook coach Donnie Tate said. “I think our guys feel like we’re turning a corner. They feel that they can play with anybody and they wanted to show that.”
Whenever Xenia appeared to be drawing away from the Golden Eagles, Bellbrook would respond with a barrage of 3-point shots to even things up or grab the lead. They hit 11 for the game.
Trailing by a point with 1:30 left in the opening quarter, the Buccaneers reeled off a 6-0 run on an inside pass from Samari Curtis to Jamille Henderson for a score. R.J. Hunter then dropped a score from the right side to put Xenia up 14-11, then Curtis hit a jumper from the right baseline to lead his team to a 16-11 first-quarter lead.
The first moment of frenzy happened with 5:47 left in the first half, when Norde’ Uloho snared a missed Corey Burnette shot, then was fouled while putting up the rebound. Bellbrook’s Donnie Crouch was called for the foul, but Burnette was the one whistled for the technical.
With Xenia out in front 25-17 with just under five minutes left in the half, another loose ball feeding frenzy erupted. This time, Bellbrook’s Ethan Savey drew the foul. But it was Xenia’s Jay Evans who drew the technical.
Several angry fans were seen getting out of the bleachers, and school officials for both sides were seen maintaining order.
Xenia coach Kent Anderson then called a 30-second timeout to regroup his troops.
“You want your kids to understand the ramifications,” Anderson said. “The next thing it explodes like that, and one of them gets a second (technical), then they’ve gotta sit out for two ballgames. One of them which would be a home game with Fairborn next Saturday night.
“We had a big win (Dec. 8) over Stebbins, and we play them next (at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday Jan. 30 in Riverside). … But we just wanted to get everybody locked in and focused, and to know what we wanted to do down here.”
Xenia played without Meechi Harris, the team’s third leading scorer. Harris was seen on crutches on the Bucs bench.
In his place, Samari Curtis continued to lead the team in scoring with 24 points, Jay Evans finished with a dozen points, and Uloho scored 10 first-half points.
Crouch had one of those nights where it seemed everything he tossed in the hoop’s direction would go in. The 6-foot-1 senior guard finished with a game-high 34 points, with 27 of those points coming from 3-point range.
Bellbrook is back in action Saturday, Jan. 27 when they’ll host Waynesville for another feverish game. That contest is set for a 7:15 p.m. start at Bellbrook High.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.