Khalil Iverson didn’t start, but boy did he finish, netting 20 of his team’s 25 second-half points, including a game-winning put back with :08.7 seconds left, to lift Hayes to a thrilling 49-48 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division victory over Big Walnut Friday night in Delaware.
“He didn’t start the game,” Hayes coach Jordan Blackburn said of his junior standout, who is normally a fixture in the starting five. “I wasn’t happy with the way he played, how hard he played, Monday in Toledo. We didn’t start him, but he responded well … when he is completely focused and playing as hard as he can, like he was in the second half, he is almost impossible to stop … and that’s as hard as I’ve ever seen him play.”
Big Walnut (7-9, 2-7 OCC), which played a pretty solid game in its own right, led 25-24 at the break, but couldn’t find an answer for the Pacers’ post in the second half.
Iverson opened what was a back-and-fourth third with a putback bucket before Michael Buckles, who left the game with an injury on the play, scored in transition to put the Golden Eagles back on top, 27-26 with 5:37 left in the third quarter.
Iverson gave Hayes (13-3, 6-3) a lead with a low-post hoop on the next trip down the floor, split a pair of free throws after the Pacers got a stop on the other end and capped what turned out to be a nice little run with a steal and uncontested dunk, ballooning the lead to 31-27 with 3:27 left in the frame.
The Golden Eagles battled back, regaining the lead when Zac Asher drilled a couple of free throws a minute later and adding to it with a 3-pointer from Logan Boyd. Iverson completed a three-point play on the Pacers’ ensuing possession, but Nick Herbert scored just before the end of the quarter to give BW a 37-34 lead heading into the final eight minutes of action.
Hayes started the fourth with a trey from Noble Moore and an Iverson layup off a steal, but Boyd scored back-to-back buckets to keep his team on top. Iverson then tied it with an inside hoop, but BW pushed the cushion back to four thanks to a bucket from Asher and two Boyd free throws to set up the exciting finish.
Iverson scored down low to pull the Pacers within 48-47 with just more than a minute to play, and after a Big Walnut turnover, Hayes had possession with plenty of time to make something happen … which is exactly what it did when Iverson scored after a 3-pointer from Moore rimmed out with less than 10 seconds left.
Aside from Iverson’s standout showing, the difference was the Pacers’ ability to take care of the ball. They made just five of their 16 three-point attempts and 15 of their 38 from inside the arc, but turned the ball over just four times.
Big Walnut, meanwhile, shot really, really well. The Eagles made 13 of their 21 inside the arc and five of eight threes, but turned the ball over 16 times … that was the difference.
“Considering the way we shot the ball, if we didn’t force all those turnovers and commit just four ourselves, it would have been tough to win,” Blackburn said. “I give credit to Big Walnut, though. They played hard and hit a lot of tough shots.”
Iverson finished with a game-best 24 points to go with 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals. Hayden Dunlap also played well, finishing with five points and seven rebounds in the win.
The Eagles were led by Asher and Boyd, who scored 15 and 13 points, respectively.