RACINE, Ohio — Unfortunately for the Tornadoes, the visiting Nelsonville-York Buckeyes withstood what seemed to be an avalanche of a start.
In the second half, and ultimately as a result, the Tornadoes experienced an offensive breakdown of what seemed like earthquake proportions.
That’s because Southern stormed out to starts of 10-0, 18-4 and 29-14, but allowed 44 second-half points — en route to the Buckeyes bouncing the Tornadoes 70-58 on Friday night in a non-league boys basketball tilt.
After the Tornadoes raced out to 20-9 following the opening quarter, and fended off a Nelsonville-York rally to lead 38-26 at halftime, the Buckeyes bashed Southern 25-5 in the third frame — taking the lead with 3:18 remaining and never relinquishing it the rest of the way.
The Tornadoes, in the final 11 minutes and 18 seconds, never got closer than 54-52 with 4:43 left to play.
In addition, as Southern is a notoriously difficult venue for visitors to win at per many pundits, Nelsonville-York netted 19-of-25 free throws — including 9-of-12 in the fourth quarter alone.
That’s exactly what Southern shot for the entire game — a contest that got away from veteran coach Jeff Caldwell’s club.
As a result, the Tornadoes slipped to an even 4-4, while Nelsonville-York improved to 5-3.
“When a team makes a run on us, we just really lose our confidence on the offensive end,” said Caldwell. “We don’t have one go-to guy that can make a bucket for us and stop a run. Teams are going to make runs on you. Nelsonville-York has some good athletes and good players, and we needed to respond when they made a run at us. But we don’t have a response. We didn’t get stops on the defensive end and offensively, we forced a little bit. It’s the same thing right now that this group of guys had issues with last year.”
In the third quarter, after Dylan Smith scored just 50 seconds in, the Buckeyes ran off eight unanswered points, trimming the deficit to 40-36 at the five-minute mark.
Smith scored again just 15 seconds later, but another Nelsonville-York spree — this one of 11 unanswered — spanned two minutes and 40 seconds to make it 47-42 in favor of the Bucks.
Aron Davis dropped in an old-fashioned three-point play before sinking a pair of free throws, as Ethan Boyher hit the go-ahead three-pointer — then Hunter Edwards’ trfiecta ended the spurt.
“We overcame a lot of adversity and kept playing and played hard. Got the ball up and down the floor in the second half and made some plays. We came out and played with great intensity in the third quarter. Pretty pleased with our overall effort and not just falling apart when things weren’t going our way,” said Nelsonville-York coach Jay Kline. “We started doing some things well to put the pressure on them. And when we turned the tables, we kept the pressure on them.”
And the Tornadoes didn’t answer.
The only other Southern point in the third period was a Trey McNickle free throw with 1:39 remaining — stopping the scoring drought of exactly three minutes and six seconds.
Prior to that, the Tornado offensive possessions featured three consecutive missed shots followed by three consecutive turnovers.
“We started off the game so well, but you have to start off the second half with that same intensity and same confidence,” said Caldwell. “For some reason, we don’t. Teams make big runs on us, and right now, we don’t have that good response. It was 25-5 in the third quarter? Wow! That’s a lot of mistakes on our part when someone makes a 25-5 run on you.”
In the final quarter, Smith meshed a pair of foul shots for the 54-52 deficit, but Edwards answered with a dribble-drive down the lane — and the Tornadoes turned the ball over again.
The Purple and Gold got no closer in the final four minutes — and a pair of free throws by Boyher, Christian Berry and Ronnie Wend sealed the deal.
Edwards, with an old-fashioned three-point play off a Wend assist, earned the Buckeyes the 70-58 final — their largest advantage of the entire night.
“We tried some different defenses tonight and held them down in the first half. But in the second half, they started figuring out some things against our zones and we couldn’t get stops on the defensive end,” said Caldwell. “When we had to play man-to-man, they beat us in some one-on-one individual matchups.”
Three Buckeyes placed in double figures, spearheaded by the 1-2 punch of Davis and Edwards.
Davis drained six field goals and 8-of-9 free throws for a game-high 20 points, collecting half of those in the second stanza alone — when N-Y rallied from a 29-14 deficit with a 12-1 run.
Edwards, on eight total field goals, added 19 points — while Boyher bagged a pair of threes in addition to 4-of-6 freebies.
His first free throw got the Buckeyes on the board — but only after Southern scored the opening 10 points and with three minutes and eight seconds gone by.
Berry buried the first field goal for N-Y — a three-pointer at the 3:05 mark of the first period, en route to nine in the canto for the team and nine for him individually.
The Tornadoes enjoyed the fast start, however, canning six triples in the opening 16 minutes.
Weston Thorla landed a pair in the first quarter, followed by one in the second by Smith and Blake Johnson — along with a pair by Trey Pickens.
Although, Southern only made one second-half trey — by Thorla with 6:36 remaining that made it 53-48.
Tylar Blevins, on six field goals and a foul shot, paced the Tornadoes with 13 points.
Thorla added a pair of first-quarter free throws towards 11, while Pickens posted eight and Johnson seven.
Smith and Crenson Rogers registered nine points apiece, as Rogers racked up three field goals and 3-of-4 second-quarter free throws.
The Tornadoes return to Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division action on Friday night, when they travel to Belpre.
“As I told the kids after the game, they have to want to get better,” said Caldwell. “But we have a lot of basketball left to play. Hopefully, we’ll get better as the season goes on.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106