Down 13 points with just under six minutes to go in the third quarter the London boys basketball team had host West Jefferson just where it wanted it in a clash of Madison County rivals on Friday, Jan. 17.
The Red Raiders (8-4, 4-3 in Mid-State League Ohio Division) have had their share of come-from-behind victories this season and they registered yet another with a 61-57 triumph at West Jefferson.
London senior Zac Carey scored 19 of his team-high 21 points in the second half, including a three-point bomb off an inbounds set with 1:35 to play in the fourth quarter to give the Red Raiders the lead for good.
London coach Darren Long smiled afterward knowing his team had just escaped a dangerous West Jefferson squad on the verge of a breakthrough.
“I don’t know if we know how to play any other way,” Long said. “Every game seems to be like this, if we could just get our guys to play the first half like we do the second half, we would be more relaxed at the end of games than we are right now.
“A win is a win. When I went down and scouted these guys against Madison-Plains I’m telling you I was scared. I knew this would be a tough game. West Jefferson is on the cusp of getting some wins and I was hoping it wasn’t going to be tonight against us.”
West Jefferson built the double-digit first half lead on the strength of a stingy defense and the efficient play of its backcourt combo of Logan Stepp (21 points) and Matt Jones (13). The pair were able to get the best of London’s talented guards in the first 16 minutes.
The lead in fact could have or should have been bigger, had the home team made more free throws and capitalized on its shots around the basket. The Roughriders (1-9, 0-5) missed a bunch of layups and short shots in the opening half.
“They went to man and sped us up,” Roughriders coach Bob Hunter said. “We got playing faster and couldn’t slow ourselves down. They were in zone in the first half, we were able to reverse the ball and get some nice looks. But they sped us up in the second half and we didn’t do a very good job of moving the ball.”
The coach also saw the London backcourt of Cary and Brok Bennett (18 points) get things going from the perimeter.
“Their senior guards stepped up like we expected, that’s what they’ve done all year. They did it against Grandview, they’ve done it against everybody, give them credit. We weren’t very good from the line and they were and that was the difference in such a close game.”
London’s unsung hero in the victory was senior big man Seth Roberts. He scored 10 points, grabbed a number of rebounds and helped to neutralize Roughriders post player Nick Mendenhall (six points),
“When Seth doesn’t take himself out of the game because of silly fouls, he is a presence inside,” Long said. “Seth is 6-5 and 4-feet wide. He can be tough down there. When he gives us a presence inside it opens things up for us on the outside.”
Zach Anderson added six points for the victorious Raiders, while Tyler Jones scored 10 points for West Jeff in defeat.
“We’ve had a tough week,” Hunter said. “I love our effort, our kids didn’t give up. We scratched and clawed and came up just short. The thing is we’ve made progress, we’ve come a long way. We just don’t have the results to show for it.”