On a night in which Buckeye Local honored members of the military for their dedicated service to our nation, the Panthers put forth a gut-check effort.
Trailing visiting Minerva 42-38, Thursday, with less than a minute to play, the hosts (2-4) scored the last five points to capture a thrill-packed, 43-42, victory and snap a three-game losing streak.
"It's been a tough start because we've had so many games on the road," Buckeye Local's Jay Morris said. "A good, hard-fought home win like this means a lot.
"I think tonight being military night was kind of special," he added. "We try to teach our kids more than just basketball. This was their service project and they raised a lot of money, food and other items for the military.
"I think it was a good night all around for us, especially the ending."
Things didn't look real good for the hosts, who were playing just their third game on the home boards this season, as the Lions (0-6) built a 9-point, 19-10, lead early in the second quarter behind the scoring of Jantzen Locke, who had 15 of his game-high 18 before the halftime break.
Minerva led 25-19 at the half, but the Panthers started to claw their way back into things slowly, but surely.
Senior Kyle Michalo netted eight of his team-high 11 points in the third panel. His back-to-back hoops pulled Buckeye Local to within one, 30-29, after three quarters.
The game was deadlocked twice in the final stanza, the last at 38 with 2:53 remaining to play.
Quade Zeedrich came off the Minerva bench to tally all of his seven points in the fourth period, including four straight to give the Lions a 42-38 edge.
Buckeye Local made its move when senior Shane Duncan spun to his left and kissed the ball off the glass from the low block while being fouled. He completed the hoop-and-the-harm to make it 42-41 with 51.9 ticks left.
Following a Buckeye Local timeout, the Lions missed the front end of a bonus situation at the 48.7-mark and Duncan rebounded. The Panthers pushed the ball upcourt and junior Brennan Czuchran knocked down a jumper from the foul line with 27.1 showing to put the hosts ahead, 43-42.
On Minerva's next trip down the floor, Duncan came up with a huge steal and Caleb Agnew was fouled. He would miss the front end of the 1-and-1, but Minerva turned the ball over again just before the final buzzer sounded.
"We needed a win," Michalo assessed. "It was huge. We were struggling, but hopefully this will get us going."
John Rozenek added nine points, while Czuchran and Duncan evenly divided a dozen. Czuchran grabbed eight rebounds as Buckeye Local trailed, 33-30, off the glass.
Minerva won the JV game.
Buckeye Local doesn't have any time to savor the win as they meet Monroe Central tonight in the first round of the Meadowbrook Holiday Tournament in Byesville.
MINERVA (42) - Locke 6 2-3 18; N. Clappee 0 0-0 0; Forst 2 0-1 4; Eyre 1 1-2 3; Gill 2 0-0 4; Whiteleather 0 0-0 0; Parrish 2 2-2 6; Zeedrich 2 2-2 7; Totals: 15-34 7-11. BUCKEYE LOCAL (43) - Czuchran 3 0-0 6; Agnew 2 0-1 4; Duncan 2 2-3 6; Rozenek 3 3-4 9; Michalo 5 1-2 11; Williams 2 0-0 5; Hamilton 1 0-0 2; Totals: 18-57 6-10.
Three-Point Goals: Minerva 5 (Locke 4, Zeedrich); Buckeye Local 1 (Williams)
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org