FRANKLIN FURNACE — It may have been the Bobcats’ perfect 6-of-6 first-quarter start from three that set ‘The Furnace’ ablaze during the first half of their non-league home game versus South Webster, but it was a tough, “gritty” finish that helped Green edge out the visiting Jeeps, 66-57, on Tuesday night.
The term “grit” came from Green head coach Dirk Hollar himself after his Bobcats’ nine-point win, and it more than fit the billing of the way his team fended off South Webster’s best punches.
“The key word for us the last couple of years has been ‘grit’, and I thought our boys had a lot of grit tonight,” Hollar said. “We really clamped down and did our job on defense.”
When the Bobcats needed them most, it was Green’s seniors who stepped up and helped push the Bobcats to the finish line.
“Bop (referring to senior Trevor Darnell) came in and did a good job communicating on defense, getting guys where they needed to be. Alec Smith’s a senior, he knocked his free throws down. You see that senior leadership already developing after game three even though they’ve never played together. It gives all of us confidence in what we can do.”
While Darnell and Smith certainly played their part, it was two brothers, Gage and Levi Sampson, who ultimately led Green in Tuesday’s win.
Gage, the senior all-Ohio special mention and first-team all-Southeast District member, finished second on his team in points with 19 (12 in second half), only to be bested by little brother Levi.
Levi, a 6’2 freshman forward, finished with a tied for game-high 24 points including five made threes, showcasing why he’ll be a problem to deal with for opposing coaches over his Bobcat career.
After the elder Sampson was forced to sit the last portion of the first half due to foul trouble, Hollar’s message at half — with the score tied 32-32 — was a simple one: Gage had to play and stay on the court.
“We play so much better when he’s (Gage) on the floor,” Hollar said. “When he’s on the floor, he’s the guy we go through. He does such a good job with the ball when he has it. If you would have told me he (Levi) would be playing this well I probably would have laughed. I knew he was athletic, I knew he could shoot the ball, but I don’t think I thought he would be playing at this level through the first three games of his high school career. It’s fun to watch, he has confidence to him, and he’s a coachable kid. (Brayden) Bockway may have had 24 points, but he made him work for his points; he did a great job.”
Green and South Webster were tied 32-all at the half, but it took a roller-coaster of a half to get there. From the start, the Bobcats came out ready to fire.
Three-straight Green threes after two opening field goals escalated the Bobcat lead to 13-0 in a hurry.
South Webster senior Brayden Bockway finally broke the Jeeps into the scoring column by hitting back-to-back threes. Bockway, along with Levi Sampson, led all scorers with a game-high 24.
By quarter’s end, Green put a cap on their best offensive quarter of the season with a Gage Sampson buzzer-beating three to make it 26-9 Bobcats after one.
“I didn’t really expect us to start perfect from the field,” Hollar said. “It was one of the few times in my coaching career that we came out and lit someone up. That was good to get that start, get that confidence, especially against a really good team like South Webster.”
“Taking nothing away from Green, them putting up 26 points in the first left me wondering why we got off the bus,” South Webster coach Brenton Cole said following the loss. “This was our first road game, hopefully our guys learned the intensity we showed in the second quarter is what needs to happen the whole game.”
Cole pointed to a moment that fueled the Jeeps’ 23-6 run in the second quarter to ultimately tie the game entering halftime.
“Freshman Will Collins came in on a mission to box out, get rebounds, and play some defense,” Cole said. “We fed off of that and we were able to get some good looks in the second.”
After scoring two points off free throws during the Jeeps’ home-opener win over East Friday, Collins made his first-career field goal and sunk three-of-four free-throws to add five points to his career-varsity totals through two games.
Also in the second quarter, senior sharp-shooter Andrew Smith made two of his four total threes to help bring the Jeeps all-the-way back from 17 down, ending his night with a total of 12 points. Trae Zimmerman and Devyn Coriell each finished with six in the loss while Gabe Ruth finished with four.
“Andrew (Smith) is my quarterback out there,” Cole said. “He’s a great leader and really holds us together. (Trae) Zimmerman found Brayden (Bockway) a couple of times, and he really answered the bell there at the end.”
Green would start the third quarter on an 11-0 run, a lead they would never look back from.
A Zimmerman two-point field goal would tie the game in the early fourth 49-49, but back-to-back field goals from Levi Sampson made it 53-49 Bobcats, a margin that would grow from there.
Down the stretch, Tuesday’s game became a free-throw shooting contest — led by Green senior Alec Smith who finished 6-of-8 from the line in the fourth and 7-of-10 overall to cap off Green’s nine-point win. The elder Sampson also hit his free throws, as you would expect from a senior all-districter, finishing 4-of-4 at the line in the game’s last frame.
Levi Singleton and Smith each finished with 10 points in the Green win, Mason Hensley added two, and Trevor Darnell added one.
Green will travel to Clay (1-1) Friday for its SOC I opener, while South Webster will host Valley (0-3) in their SOC II opener on Friday.
“I hope we learned that it takes a total effort for 32 minutes,” Cole said. “We need to learn what we need to do to be really good, and also what we need not do when we are really bad.”
South Webster 9 23 13 12 – 57
Green 26 6 16 18 – 66
SOUTH WEBSTER 57 (1-1, 0-0 SOC II)
Trae Zimmerman 3 0-0 6, Gabe Ruth 1 2-3 4, Andrew Smith 4 0-0 12, Devyn Coriell 2 0-1 6, Brayden Bockway 8 4-5 24, Will Collins 1 3-4 5, Aidan Andrews 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 19 9-13 57; Three-point goals 10 (Bockway and Smith 4 each, Coriell 2)
GREEN 66 (2-1, 0-0 SOC I)
Alec Smith 1 7-10 10, Levi Singleton 4 0-0 10, Levi Sampson 9 1-3 24, Gage Sampson 7 4-7 19, Mason Hensley 1 0-0 2, Trevor Darnell 0 1-4 1, Caden Brammer 0 0-0 0, Troy Otworth 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 23 13-24 66; Three-point goals: 9 (Levi Sampson 5, Levi Singleton 2, Alec Smith and Gage Sampson 1 each)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved