A roaring and densely packed Ontario gymnasium, dubbed the "O-rena" was the site of the Division IV Sectional Final between Buckeye Central and Mansfield St. Peter. The location deemed itself very fitting for Buckeye Central, which came out on top after a substantial fourth quarter rally, 64-53.
It's hard to say where the fourth quarter burst came from. It could be the powerful desire to advance to districts, or it could be just about anything, but for Buckeye Central coach Phil Loy, it stemmed from last week's tough loss to North Central Conference foe Wynford.
"We were pretty bummed out last week that we didn't get a share of the NCC. We didn't come out playing BC basketball," Loy said.
What Buckeye Central did gain was a sectional championship and a slot in the Division IV district tournament.
"It feels great, it feels great," Loy said.
The powerful voices of the Buckeye Central faithful coming from the sides of the gymnasium were enjoyed by Loy as well.
"We did have a very good following. As the season's gone, it seems it's been growing and that's exciting. It's exciting for the players you know, and it makes a huge difference," Loy said. "I appreciate the fans' support. I think it's great and our players for sure appreciate it. I think you play better when you got people cheering you on, getting you going. It's fun."
Buckeye Central and Mansfield St. Peter came in with similar records but a 75-percent effort from BC beyond the 3- point line set the tone for the first quarter, where the Bucks lead by as much as seven before settling with a five point lead after the first eight minutes.
Mansfield St. Peter came out hard in the second quarter and forced it even with 2:24 left after one Andy Bacon free throw. Bacon went on to make the other foul shot, but Buckeye Central rallied the remainder of the first half to lead 29-25, going into the second half.
Mansfield St. Peter played catch-up the entire third period and even briefly clinched a 39-38 lead when Will Rhodes knocked down a short jumper with 33 seconds remaining.
It was the last time that the Spartans (16-8) led.
Even with the loss, Mansfield St. Peter coach Pat Durham held his head high.
"We played with really good effort, just missed a few shots here and there," Durham said. My hat's off to them, they basically outplayed us, especially in the fourth quarter.
In regards to that fourth quarter, Buckeye Central started it with a bang.
A tough layup from Bryce Christy and a right-corner trey from Austin Wurm heated things up.
Within 90 seconds, BC opened a nine-point lead, 48-39. The Spartans never come close than six from there on.
Buckeye Central had four players rack up double-digit numbers, starting with Cade Kaple, who had 15. Bryce Christy and Stone Wurm each contributed 13 while Grant Loy had 10. Eight Bucks scored overall, a number that both Loy and Durham commented about.
"We played nine guys tonight, I thought we got good production out of all of them," Loy said. "That's probably the best balanced scoring we've had all year long.
Just a solid effort out of everybody."
Buckeye Central depth was the biggest obstacle for the Spartans, that and hitting free throws down the final stretch.
"I was surprised they had four or five guys in double figures; they showed great scoring balance," Durham said.
It's not over for the Bucks and their fan club.
BC will face off against Plymouth at 8 p.m. on March 5 at Willard High School.