After going 1-4 in their first five games, Big Walnut’s Golden Eagles needed something to spur them on, and their victory over Olentangy just before Christmas seemed to be that something.
“We’ve played back-to-back weekends of Friday-Saturday games,” Big Walnut coach Eric Myers said. “We have some tired legs right now, so we’re hoping that getting some good minutes out of some other guys will help us because we’re right back in the league on Tuesday.”
“We’re young and we’re building for the future, and we’re trying to instill that into the boys,” Delaware Christian coach Matt Moore said. “We brought some light out of it. We had a couple kids play well and we did some good things, so we’re going to keep fighting and keep getting better as the season progresses.”
For Big Walnut (5-5), confidence has been the key. The Golden Eagles played even with Olentangy in their December 23rd game in Lewis Center, and used that win to take the championship of the Newark Catholic Holiday Invitational, defeating Alliance Marlington and Newark Catholic in back-to-back games.
“That Olentangy win was a big one for us,” Myers said. “Coming back in that one and then going into the Newark Catholic tournament where they played well there. You win a couple of games and you get a little more bounce in your step coming into practice. I have no complaints about my guys. They come in and work hard every day.”
As far as Delaware Christian (1-6), the season has been a struggle from the start. Graduation losses and player transfers set the Eagles back a bit before the start of the season, but injuries and inexperience have been the main troubles after the start of the year.
“We talked about how we have 10 to 12 boys per class compared to what Big Walnut has, so we thought it would be a chance to put ourselves on the map,” Moore said. “We came out fighting, but we’ve had some injuries and illness, so we didn’t have many kids to sub while they were subbing five at a time.”
It looked as though it might be a close game early on. After Big Walnut hit two three-pointers to take an early lead, Delaware Christian cut it back to two points before three minutes had elapsed.
But the Golden Eagles erupted afterward, outscoring the host Eagles 15-6 the rest of the quarter, including a 7-0 run in a span of just under 90 seconds, to take a 21-10 lead after one quarter.
Delaware Christian trimmed the lead back to 10, 23-13, early in the second period, but Big Walnut used a 10-2 run over a span of just over two and a half minutes to push the lead to 18, 33-15, and later canned threes on three consecutive trips in the final two minutes to advance the advantage to 42-21 with under 30 seconds left in the half.
“Big Walnut has some good players on that team, and they shot the lights out,” Moore said. “They shot about 50 or 60 percent from three-point range on us tonight. Some might say that’s poor defense on our part, but I’ll say Big Walnut shot the ball very well tonight.”
The home team scored the final three points of the half to clip the deficit back to 18, 42-24, but Big Walnut started the second half on a 10-2 run, and after a Delaware Christian bucket halted that burst, scored seven of the final 11 points of the period, taking a 59-32 advantage into the final quarter. The Golden Eagle defense was just as strong as the offense, forcing 11 turnovers in the period.
Both teams cleared the benches in the final quarter, but the Golden Eagles didn’t slow down the offense or defense. Big Walnut scored the first 13 points of the fourth quarter in the first four minutes while the defense shut out the home team from the field in the final period, allowing Delaware Christian just one free throw in the entire quarter.
“We had some concerns,” Myers said. “We got a little sloppy on the defensive end and some of those guys picked up some fouls, but I think that goes along with the tired legs, but we’re getting into the meat of the season and we need to find some wins in conference. That would be nice for us.”
Three Big Walnut players scored in double figures on the night, led by senior Nick Herbert, who finished with a game-high 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting from the floor while adding four steals. Senior Chase LaVeer and junior Matt Tarney each added 12 points, while Zac Asher closed with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Junior Kyle Gose had eight points and added game-highs with five assists and five steals, while junior Mason Knight closed with six points while pulling down seven rebounds.
Delaware Christian junior post Ben Evans wasn’t at full strength, but still topped the host Eagles with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists. Sophomore Gabe Hedges added eight points plus two assists and two steals, while senior Austin Roden, playing his first game since the season opener, had four points and four steals.
Senior Matt Cellar drained a three for three points and added two assists, sophomore Drew Sedoti had two points from the line, and senior Michael Hsu and sophomore Daniel Gaudio finished with one point apiece.