VANDALIA — There were no three-quarter length buzzer beaters. There was no need to desperately claw their way back to a win. Not this time.
Beavercreek came out as if it wanted to atone for its near-loss earlier in the week to West Carrollton, and the team probably hadn’t forgot the buzzer beating regular season loss to Springfield on a shot from three-quarters down the court. The Beavers charged out to a 9-0 lead in the game’s first three minutes of play, led by 28 points, then held on down the stretch for a 64-44 win, in a Division I district semifinal game against that very same upstart Springfield team.
“These past couple games, I feel like everyone’s been giving us their best. After the West Carrollton game, we opened up our eyes and realized that it’s time for us to show everyone what Beavercreek’s all about this year,” said Yousef Saleh, Beavercreek’s talented senior point guard.
Against West Carrollton on Wednesday, Beavercreek trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half. It wasn’t until there was just over two minutes left in the game that the Beavers grabbed their first lead. And Adam Duvall’s two free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining ultimately won that contest.
Back on Feb. 11, Springfield’s Larry Stephens snagged a rebound and launched a three-quarter length shot at the buzzer to defeat the Beavers, 52-51 in Springfield.
This time, Saleh led Beavercreek with 16 points, Mali Harris-Strayhorn scored 15, and Duvall was the other Beaver in double-figure scoring with 12.
Coach Steve Pittman said Beavercreek had been struggling to get off to a good start in recent games.
“We’d just keep getting off to these horrible starts, but today we got off to a great start. And we were able to hold the lead for the entire game,” Pittman said. “We got that 9-0 lead, then they missed a couple layups and we were able to go back down each time and score. We were able to maintain that lead.
“We lost our composure in the middle, but then we were able to gain it back towards the end. Those are some things we’ll spend the rest of this week working on.”
Down by 20 points at the half, Springfield went into a full-court defense for the entire second half. A 13-0 run to start the fourth enabled the Wildcats to get within 14 points of Beavercreek (50-36) with 3:50 left to play, but the Beavers outscored the ‘Cats 8-3 in the game’s final two minutes to preserve the win.
Springfield senior Jordan Howard finished with a team-best 10 points. He was tasked with slowing down ‘Creek senior guard Yousef Saleh each time Saleh would make his way with the ball upcourt. In a very sportsmanlike gesture, he hugged Saleh as he was subbed out of the game for the last time. Howard was one of seven seniors on the Wildcats roster.
Pittman said he plans on being down to West Chester Lakota West High School to catch Saturday night’s 7 p.m. contest between Liberty Township Lakota East and Cincinnati Turpin. Beavercreek will play the winner in a district final game at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 8 in Cincinnati at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.