ROSEMOUNT — Green senior standout Levi Sampson — the six-foot and four-inch and two-time all-Ohioan including as a Division IV second-teamer last season —scores, rebounds, passes, blocks shots, defends, and does almost everything for the ever-improved Bobcats.
He even played point guard to a degree on Tuesday night, when Abe McBee injured his ankle with only 42-and-a-half first-quarter seconds remaining —and did not return.
Sampson still supplied plenty of scoring and boarding, as the double-double machine muscled for a game-high 25 points —and the band of Bobcats behind him helped out enough, as Green gained a 71-48 Southern Ohio Conference Division I boys basketball victory over the host Clay Panthers.
The Bobcats scored the opening seven points and never trailed, McBee bucketed three first-quarter consecutive baskets before leaving, Green posted a pair of 20 points and plus periods for a 43-23 halftime advantage, and ballooned the lead to as large as 62-34 only a minute and two seconds into the fourth frame.
With the win, the Bobcats boosted their record to 5-2 —and a perfect 3-0 in the SOC I.
The young and rebuilding Panthers, meanwhile, fell to 0-6 —and to 0-3 in the division.
Traditionally, per first-year Green head coach J.D. King, the Bobcats have not played well atop Rosemount’s Clay High Street.
But these Bobcats aren’t bad, and Sampson spearheads them.
Sampson scored seven first-half field goals, and made 3-of-9 foul shots, towards 17 points through the opening 16 minutes.
His drive to the goal gave Green its largest lead through the first 18 minutes and 22 seconds (49-25), then his only three-pointer made it 53-30 at the 4:40 mark of the third.
Sampson sat out most of the fourth period with the Bobcats boasting a nearly 30-point advantage, but he did manage to make 3-of-4 more free throws —for the 62-34 and 64-37 leads at those junctures.
While basketball is indeed a team game, Green goes often the way with Sampson’s performance.
He averaged, as a junior, 26 points and 14 rebounds per game.
“Levi (Sampson) is a very talented player, has the ability to play one thru five on the court for us. There are opportunities we try to put him on the point to run some things. But he does what a player of his caliber should do tonight,” said King. “He does it all for us.”
Perhaps pressed into point guard service due to McBee’s injury, Sampson led the Bobcats’ constant attack of the basket —as Green went right at the Panther defenders in the lane, and enjoyed success.
The Bobcats either scored inside or got to the foul line, as they attempted 30 free throws with Clay committing 20 fouls —10 in each half for two times the double-bonus situation.
Sampson’s eight two-point goals paced the way, while every Bobcat played and all but one scored.
Green accounted for 23 baskets inside the arc, as senior Levi Waddell did splash a pair of three-point goals.
“We’re always trying to get our guys to play inside-out. They (Panthers) came out and tried to play a little box-and-one (defense) on Levi (Sampson). I loved his mentality of not settling for easy outside shots. We try to attack the basket and not settle,” said King. “In our two losses, I thought we settled for outside shots.”
On Tuesday, the inside scoring also included offensive putbacks on rebounds —primarily by Sampson and six-foot and three-inch freshman Jon Knapp.
Knapp netted 19 points on seven field goals and 5-of-9 free throws, as he and Sampson sure provide a 1-2 scoring and rebounding punch.
“Jon (Knapp) is growing every day. There are times when I joke with him about playing like a freshman, but there are times tonight he really showed some growth,” praised King. “He did a great job attacking the glass for us. It’s just something that every day we’re looking for him to get better and better. He is a big part of not only the now for us, but also the future.”
As for the present, though, senior Levi Blevins bagged seven points on two third-quarter baskets and 3-of-3 free throws, while Gabe McBee chipped in five on two first-quarter field goals and a split of third-frame foul shots.
Abe McBee, on the other hand, or rather foot in this case, unfortunately injured his ankle —the same ankle which he has endured injury issues from football, as McBee was a second team all-Ohio linebacker this past campaign.
King commented that “we will know more tomorrow (Wednesday) and hope it’s just a small-grade ankle sprain”.
The Panthers, which did not sport one single senior on Tuesday night, got team-highs in points from juniors Kenny Fowler (16) and Malachi Loper (14).
Both made seven field goals, as Fowler tossed in a pair of first-half threes —while Cullen Payne popped a pair in the second half.
A Fowler rebound putback got the Panthers on the board, but trailing 7-0 at the 5:17 mark of the opening quarter.
Fowler’s first three, at the top of the key four minutes later, got Clay to within 18-12 —but the Panthers never got closer.
“Historically, we’ve (Bobcats) not really played well here at Clay. We talked about coming in here and being focused and taking care of business from the opening tip,” said King. “I thought we did that.”
Clay returns home, and returns to non-league action on Saturday night, against Leesburg Fairfield.
The Bobcats, conversely, return to the road —and return to SOC I action as they remain tied with New Boston (3-0 SOC I) and Notre Dame (2-0 SOC I) for the league’s early lead — on Friday night at Symmes Valley.
King contends he likes his club’s start, but maintains the basketball season is a long and winding road ahead.
“Definitely pleased with where we’re at, and we’re preaching to keep getting better each day,” said the coach. “It’s a long season, and we know there are some tough tests ahead for us. But, we just have to embrace and meet those challenges as they come.”
* * *
Green 20 23 18 10— 71
Clay 12 11 11 14—48
GREEN 71 (5-2, 3-0 SOC I)
Levi Blevins 2 3-3 7, Levi Sampson 9 6-13 25, Jon Knapp 7 5-9 19, Abe McBee 3 0-1 6, Levi Waddell 2 0-0 6, Gabe McBee 2 1-2 5, Landon Kimbler 0 0-0 0, Derek Salyers 0 1-2 1, Devlin Maynard 1 0-0 2; TOTALS 26 16-30 71; Three-point field goals: 3 (Levi Waddell 2, Levi Sampson 1)
CLAY 48 (0-6, 0-3 SOC I)
Kenny Fowler 7 0-1 16, Quinten Demorest 1 0-0 2, Zane Ball 1 0-0 3, Cullen Payne 3 0-0 8, Aiden Ball 0 0-0 0, Tristan Large 0 0-0 0, Malachi Loper 7 0-1 14, Xavier VanBibber 0 0-0 0, Wade Bailey 0 1-2 1, Isaiah Whitt 2 0-0 4; TOTALS 21 1-4 48; Three-point field goals: 5 (Kenny Fowler and Cullen Payne 2 apiece, Zane Ball 1)