Panthers Get Eliminated
ZANESVILLE – In an instant.
That’s about how long it felt like it took for West Holmes to take control of Tuesday night’s Ohio Division II sectional tournament opener against Buckeye Local at Zanesville High School.
The Knights outscored the Panthers 25-4 during the third quarter and cruised to a 78-49 triumph on Don Stahl Court inside Winland Gymnasium.
West Holmes returns to Licking County at 2 p.m. Saturday for a district semifinal tilt against Cambridge. The Bobcats edged Claymont, 60-59, in Tuesday night’s second game. John Glenn and Carrollton will square off Friday night in the other district semifinal.
”They came out strong and we came out sluggish,” Buckeye Local coach Greg Haberfield said referencing the second half.
The first half was a different story. The Panthers (8-15) stood toe to toe with West Holmes (19-4) for the bulk of the opening quarter.
Trailing 8-4, Buckeye Local produced a 9-2 run – containing five points from senior Brennan Czuchran – to grab a 13-10 lead.
The Knights responded with four straight points to take the lead back at 14-13, but Czuchran scored on a layup to give the Panthers the lead again at 15-14.
Czuchran’s first basket of the game – also Buckeye Local’s first of the night – gave him 1,000 points for his career. He’s the first player in school history to reach the milestone. The game was paused briefly to recognize it and Haberfield presented Czuchran with the game ball.
Czuchran didn’t score the rest of the quarter, however. West Holmes, meanwhile, finished the period on a 10-0 spurt and carried a 24-15 advantage into the second.
”There early in the game a lot of things were clicking for us defensively,” Haberfield said. ”Offensively, we were able to get some good looks.
”Then, (West Holmes) turned it on. Their pressure bothered us in the halfcourt and they started to pull away little bit by little bit.”
The Panthers had great success on slowing down the Knights early and, at the same time, breaking their press. But, as the second quarter wore on, West Holmes’ standouts Josh Neer and Brady Arnold got warmed up.
Neer finished the first half with 17 points, while Arnold netted 15. They finished with 23 and 25, respectively.
”They were able to execute their press offense,” Haberfield said.
Despite West Holmes’ late surge in the first quarter, the Panthers hung around in the second. After trailing by as many as 14, they clawed back to within 11 – 40-29 – at halftime on a Damion Beall bucket just before the second-quarter buzzer.
Buckeye Local struggled from the field in the third, making only one field goal – a 3-pointer by Czuchran. Meanwhile, West Holmes seemed to score at will, many times doing so on second and third opportunities.
”They were so aggressive going to the glass,” Haberfield noted. ”They got a lot of good looks inside.
”We tried to limit them, but they just pulled away.”
Czuchran finished the night with 16 points and the respect and admiration of his coach.
”I’m extremely happy for him and glad he had the opportunity to reach the milestone,” Haberfield said.
”He put in more work in the offseason than anyone I’ve ever coached. He went to everything we had over the summer. He always had a basketball in his hands and it showed.
”I really believe he’s only going to get better. I can’t say enough great things about him.”a