FRANKLIN FURNACE — As tournament action draws near, it’s always important for a team to have all of its ducks in a row as the regular season heads toward its conclusion.
And if quality wins over the New Boston Tigers’ and Clay Panthers’ boys basketball programs are any indication, it is evident that the Green Bobcats’ boys basketball program is starting to find a rhythm with the regular season nearing its end. That rhythm, which has been spearheaded by a group that includes Tanner Kimbler, Tayte Carver, Gage Sampson, Caden Blizzard, Zach Huffman, and Rylee Maynard, continued on Tuesday evening as Green took home another quality victory by outlasting the South Webster Jeeps’ basketball program and its scrappy effort, 64-50, in a nonconference battle between two Division IV units in Franklin Furnace on Senior Night.
For Dirk Hollar, the contest was a continued showcase of his team’s effort as far as the aspects of ball movement and defense were concerned.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” Hollar said. “We’re playing really good basketball. We’re finally looking really good on the defensive end. There were a couple of missed boxouts throughout the whole game, but I also thought that our kids were getting killed inside. Our defense is exactly where I want it to be right now, and our offense doesn’t stop. Everybody’s doing their job. We are finally clicking. The first month of December was rough. We played a lot of games and I didn’t have my rotations down. Now, I’ve got my rotation down, and we’re rolling. It’s a perfect time to start rolling.”
And while South Webster proved to have plenty of fight in its tank, the Jeeps, according to Brenton Cole, just couldn’t overcome Green and the scoring outputs of Tanner Kimbler, Tayte Carver, and Gage Sampson, who finished with 57 of Green’s 64 points on the evening.
“They really pushed the basketball tonight,” Cole said. “We’re down Shiloah (Blevins), and we got maybe three minutes from Sam Holstein too, so we’re basically down two starters, and boy, did they push the basketball. When they have three guys in double-figures like that, that’s tough to overcome.”
From the outset, Green wasted no time jumping out to its early advantage as the trio of Carver, Kimbler, and Sampson put on a show to begin the affair. Behind a corner three from Carver and a 25-foot three-pointer from Kimbler off of the left wing, the Bobcats jumped out to a 16-3 advantage to begin the nonconference affair as the duo combined for 12 of the Bobcats’ first 16 points in the contest to put Green up by the aforementioned margin with two minutes to go in the opening quarter.
Then Sampson, who proved to be a force with his finishing ability inside, finished out the remainder of the quarter with a scoring burst of his own. The sophomore standout, in fact, scored each of Green’s last six points as the Bobcats ultimately took a 22-11 lead after a quarter of play behind its own ability to make the extra pass as a unit.
“That’s one of the most important things,” Hollar said. “We know Tanner can score, we know Tayte can score, and we know that Gage can score. However, their scoring opportunities are becoming easier to come by because of the way that we are moving the basketball.”
However, South Webster proved that it wasn’t going to be a pushover without its junior standout and arguably its quickest player on the floor.
Levi Murphy, who drained a pair of treys in the opening half of action, added a third trey just two minutes into the second quarter to ignite a fire under the Jeeps. Kimbler countered by scoring 10 of his 21 points in the quarter for Green to keep the Bobcats in front, but Murphy’s shooting from deep helped open up opportunities for players like Tanner Voiers — who proved to be big off of the bench with his ability to rebound and chase down loose balls — to shine. Voiers’ and-one inside allowed South Webster to cut the Green lead to 27-20 before the Bobcats extended their lead back out to a 34-24 margin by the halftime break.
Murphy, who shined last year in district competition with some big minutes that allowed the Jeeps to advance to the Division IV District Finals, finished with 11 points, while Voiers added seven off of the bench for South Webster.
“That’s the key,” Cole said of Murphy. “If we can get Levi going, it’s going to be tough for other teams to try to figure out who to guard. If he’s shooting, Andrew (Smith) is shooting, and Devyn (Coriell) is shooting, you’ve got three guys to focus on, and that’s a tough cover. Tanner was really looking to attack the glass and get rebounds. It’s just something that you don’t normally see out of a freshman. I’m really excited about that.”
With South Webster making its push at the end of the first half, some wise words from Caden Blizzard — a cousin of Blevins’ proved to provide some fuel for the Bobcats.
“Caden said at halftime, ‘We’ve got to finish this. I don’t want to hear anything else about it at home,’” Hollar said. “I’m sure that when they gather their families around that they are ragging each other, so of course, Caden’s going to say, ‘Hey, we got this one,’ and Shiloah’s going to say, ‘Well, I didn’t play.’”
And true to form, Green came out with something to prove immediately. Behind Carver — who was a pest in the passing lanes all evening long — the Bobcats forced two turnovers and scored six straight points to begin the second half on a 6-0 run. The result? The largest lead of the game for Green to that point as the Bobcats held a 42-26 lead with around six minutes to play in the third frame.
“We watched film on (South Webster), and we just advised them to get out in the passing lanes and put pressure on their guards,” Hollar said. “I thought that we did a really good job of that.”
But as they did in the first half, the Jeeps came clawing back as Coriell and Smith began to put their marks on the affair. Small in stature but not in heart, Smith’s superb on-ball defense, along with Coriell’s crafty driving skills and offensive play, allowed the pair to combine for nine points during a 13-8 spurt that allowed South Webster to whittle the lead down to 11 as the fourth quarter began, with a foul on Smith with one second left on a three-pointer aiding the Jeeps in its intent as Smith nailed the third of three free throws to cut the lead to 48-37 after three quarters of action.
“The guys didn’t give up tonight,” Cole said. “I told the guys, ‘If (Tanner) Kimbler gets going, he can put (Green) up by 10 points with three shots, basically. So if we find ourselves down by that margin, we need to keep scratching, clawing, and fighting, because if we do, we can end up back in the game.”
Then, after a pair of free throws from Sampson, Smith came up large with a huge three on the ensuing South Webster possession, while Coriell added yet another drive and finish on the following offensive series to cut the Green lead to 50-42 with 5:34 left to go in the contest. Coriell tied with Murphy for the team-high in points with 11 while Smith added eight tallies to the South Webster cause.
“It’s hard to take Andrew out, it really is,” Cole said of Smith. “His hustle, effort, and energy were tremendous, and he always brings that to the table for us.”
But with the game winding down, Green’s three-point shooting ability proved to be too much to overcome.
The Bobcats, who hit five three-pointers during the affair, got two critical treys when they were needed the most over a two-minute span. With 5:13 remaining in the fourth, Kimbler, who drove to his left, made a great dump-down pass to Carver, who nailed a wide-open trey after the Jeeps were caught off guard by the clever pass.
Then, just two minutes and 10 seconds later, the junior point guard proved to be on the receiving end of another great basketball play as Rylee Maynard, who received a pass after Green fought off South Webster for a loose ball, immediately swung the ball over to a wide-open Kimbler, who buried a long-range trey from the top of the circle. That shot, which was fittingly created by Green’s lone boys basketball senior on Senior Night, capped off a 7-0 Bobcats’ spurt and put the game out of reach for good in the process.
“There was one play where the ball got swung to Rylee,” Hollar said. “Two guys came to Rylee, and he kicked it to Tanner for a wide-open three. That was a huge three, but Rylee made that happen because when he caught the pass, he knew he was covered. He didn’t even think about shooting the ball. He swung that ball over to Tanner and he buried it. We’re playing really good basketball right now. The guys don’t care who scores or who plays. They’re just trying to get that ‘W.’”
With the victory, Green improved to 11-6 overall and will take its momentum into a pair of road bouts against Western (Friday) and Symmes Valley (next Friday) in the process. More importantly, Maynard got to cap his final home bout with a victory. One more victory also clinches a winning record in SOC I play for the Bobcats, who sit at 7-5 overall in conference action.
“This is the second year in a row where we’ve sent off our seniors with a big win at home,” Hollar said. “I know that last year, Alex Hughes, Justin Deerfield, and Aaron Johnson got to go home with a win, so it’s nice to send them off. I told Rylee, ‘We’re not done, are we?’ He said, ‘No, I want to go to the Convo.’ Right now, however, we’ve got to finish these next two games (against Western and Symmes Valley). Our goal right now is to finish those two games and shoot for the Convo.”
As for South Webster, the Jeeps, who fell to 7-10 overall with the loss, will look to make a big rebound on Friday when South Webster hosts rival Oak Hill (16-2, 10-2 SOC II) in an SOC II bout. The Jeeps are currently 4-8 in SOC II action.
“It can only help us in the long run,” Cole said. “There’s guys that are getting 32 minutes, 28 minutes, 24 minutes that are seeing time that they wouldn’t normally get. It’s really giving them time to step up and find a groove or a niche to get their games going.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT