CEDARVILLE —In an Ohio Heritage Conference boys varsity basketball game featuring the top-4 scorers in the conference, West Liberty-Salem’s defensive performance proved to be the difference.
The visiting Tigers (8-3, 6-3 OHC North) limited Cedarville to four points in the first quarter (while scoring 19 themselves) in an eventual 57-42 win, Friday night at Cedarville High.
A game official noticed a photographer show up on the sidelines almost midway through the first period. During a break, the official said ‘If you just got here, the guys in black and orange are shooting at about 60 percent; Cedarville may be at 10 percent. That’s the difference here, so far.’
Cedarville’s Colby Cross, the OHC’s scoring leader with a 16.9 points-per-game scoring average, did not score in the first quarter of play. Trent Koning, the conference’s second leading scorer (15.3 ppg), had accounted for all four of the Indians’ points in that opening quarter.
“We got after it on defense tonight,” West Liberty-Salem coach Darren Leichty said. “I’m really happy with how we switched out on their shooters. They’ve got two really good scorers, and I felt like we were able to put their shooters in possessions where they were always contested and may not have felt very comfortable. I think that was really big, and then we were able to rebound those missed shots.”
The Tigers led 25-10 at the half, and held their ground the rest of the way.
Matthew Loffing, who entered the game tied with Koning as the league’s no. 2 scorer, led all scorers with 19 points. Holden Nease (no. 3 in scoring at 15.2 ppg) finished with a dozen second-half points after a scoreless first half, and then Nick Burden also finished in double figures for WLS with 11.
“We definitely did not shoot the ball very well tonight. That’s easily the worst we’ve shot all year,” Indians coach Ryan Godlove said. “The frustrating part was in that first quarter. We had a lot of good shots that usually go in for us, but we just didn’t make them tonight.
“I felt that we let that affect the way we played for the rest of the game. Even though we did not shoot the ball well tonight, I felt like it affected the way we played defense at the other end. It affected our transition defense, and I could see that in our body language. West Liberty is a good team, and I felt like they played a really good game. Praise to them for coming in here and playing so well.”
Cross scored 14 second-half points and Koning added eight in the second half to finish with 17 and 12 points respectively. Isaiah Ramey, Payton Herron and Caleb McKinion accounted for the Indians’ other 13.
“We needed this win bad, tonight. We’re on the other side of the league and we’re fighting with Fairbanks. We trail them by a game, so this win is huge for us, it keeps us in the race,” Leichty said.
The result, combined with Greeneview’s 58-45 home win over Mechanicsburg Friday night, drops Cedarville (10-3) into a tie for first place with the Rams in the OHC South standings. Both teams are now 8-2 in the South.
Cedarville, which defeated Greeneview back on Dec. 17, will host Greeneview in what could possibly determine the OHC South title on Feb. 7.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.