Big Walnut was hampered by a slow start for the second game in as many nights Saturday, falling behind visiting DeSales 23-8 after the first quarter, en route to a 65-41 non-league setback.
The Golden Eagles battled back with a 14-8 second, but the Stallions’ 23-6 third all but sealed the deal.
Kaleb Phillips led BW with 11 points while Ben Saxe and Hayden Bowmar had eight each.
Friday’s game against the county rival Pacers followed a similar blueprint.
Hayes coach Jordan Blackburn wasn’t thrilled with the way his guys played early on in Tuesday’s loss to New Albany.
Friday against host Big Walnut, the start wasn’t a problem as the Pacers rolled to a 47-33 OCC-Capital Division win.
“We thought (the start) was a big part of why we lost last game,” Blackburn said. “This time, we wanted to get off to a good start and make sure everyone was ready to do their jobs.”
Hayes did just that, especially on the defensive end, limiting Big Walnut to just three first-half field goals. The Golden Eagles shot 3-for-19 in the opening half as the Pacers built a 25-11 lead by the break.
“The guys did a nice job tonight,” Blackburn said. “Several guys contributed … it was just a good team win.”
Big Walnut answered with a 12-5 third quarter, but Hayes won the fourth 17-10 to smooth out the scoring summary.
Pacer standouts included junior forward Derrick Buford, who was active on the defensive end, making 13 deflections; Zach McIntire, who finished 9-for-10 at the free throw line on his way to a 15-point, nine-rebound performance; Terin Kinsway, who had 10 points and five rebounds; and Sam Midura, who finished with seven points and 10 boards.
Henry Von Hollen led the Golden Eagles with 10 points. Saxe and Darrius Watson finished with six apiece while Phillips and Bowmar had four each.
Kelsie Imertreijs played the role of hero Friday, hitting a layup with four seconds left to lift Big Walnut to a thrilling 34-32 OCC-Capital Division win over host Hayes.
In a game characterized by big runs — the Golden Eagles (3-3, 2-2 OCC) started with an 8-2 first quarter only to see the Pacers (1-5, 0-4 OCC) win the third 9-4 — BW had the final say.
The Eagles, thanks to back-to-back three-pointers from Taryn Hammond, erased a seven-point deficit in the fourth.
Imertreijs finished with 11 points to pace the Eagles while Brandy Bauer and Jessica Walker led the Pacers with nine and eight points, respectively.
Drew Cochran and Matt Halbakken came up big over the weekend, finishing second in their respective divisions to lead Big Walnut to a top-three showing at Saturday’s Firehouse Classic in Sunbury.
The Golden Eagles finished with 167 points — just enough to edge fourth-place Paint Valley (166.5).
Cochran, making his first appearance in his team’s host tourney since missing all of his junior season with an injury, marched all the way to the championship in the 152-pound division, thanks to three straight first-period pins. He finished second, as did Matt Halbakken in the 138-pound division.
In other action, Big Walnut’s Dawson Brehm (113), Bailey Munday (120) and Cole Foster (132) finished third; Josh Parker (145), Anthony Pisano (160), Nathan Hadden (195) and Tyler Hogg (220) finished fourth; Phillip Roberto (170) finished fifth; and Carson Dearth (182) finished sixth.
Northmor defended its 2014 Firehouse Classic championship with another first-place performance. The Knights closed with 244.5 points while Sheridan, a tourney newcomer, nabbed runner-up honors with 243 points.
Licking Heights (146.5), Shawnee (117), Jonathan Alder (111), Galion (108.5) and Centennial (60) smoothed out the scoring summary.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.