NEW BOSTON — Quite frankly, it was Kyle Sexton’s world on Saturday night —and everybody else was just living in it.
That’s because Sexton —the six-foot five-inch New Boston junior standout — poured in a career-high 36 points on a dozen field goals and a perfect 12-of-12 free throws, and the host Tigers turned the visiting Western Indians over early and often en route to a 73-59 Southern Ohio Conference Division I victory inside Homer Pellegrinon Memorial Gymnasium.
That’s right…you can say Sexton was better by the dozen — 12 baskets and 12 freebies.
In fact, his 36 made up half of the Tigers’ tally, but New Boston benefited most from being able to force several Indian turnovers —turning several of its 16 steals into transition buckets.
While the Tigers — after an entire week layoff and with Saturday night’s game being a makeup from Friday night — trailed 8-4 early on, a 9-2 run over the final two-and-a-half minutes of the opening quarter quickly turned the tide.
Sexton scored 19 first-half points on five field goals and 9-of-9 free throws —all nine of his foul shots coming in the final three-and-a-half minutes of the second quarter when New Boston began its separation.
In the second half, Western wasn’t able to stop Sexton from driving the lane and attacking the rim, as he poured in seven more field goals and sank three more free throws.
He shot 12-of-17 from inside the arc and even attempted two threes, and grabbed 10 rebounds for yet another impressive double-double.
The only blemishes were his nine turnovers out of a team too many 31, but in this instance, his play in the paint more than made up for his handling of the ball.
“We were able to establish Kyle in the post, and inside the paint, and he was able to get going and score some points. It wasn’t Kyle’s best offensive game taking care of the ball but it was definitely his best offensive game in the paint and finishing his shots and shooting free throws,” said New Boston coach Adam Cox. “And he settled a few times, and I told him that I thought they (Indians) couldn’t stop him so quit settling. If he was going to go for 40, tonight was the night and that he had to go to the basket. If we would have had a better first quarter, where we had four points with four minutes left to go and Kyle was on the bench and had four turnovers, he probably could have gone for 45.”
Truth be told, Sexton is the presumptive SOC I Player of the Year — as the Tigers are already the outright SOC I champions, the first time that has happened since the 1970-71 campaign.
With the win, New Boston —the second-ranked team in the fifth weekly Associated Press Ohio High School boys basketball Division IV poll —raised its stellar record to 19-1, and is a perfect 13-0 in league play.
The Tigers also completed the season sweep of the Indians, which fell to 8-10 —and to 5-7 in the SOC I.
It was Western’s first game since Jan. 28, when it lost to Peebles, which is also the only club to defeat the Tigers all season.
New Boston won the first meeting at Western on Jan. 15 by a count of 68-62, as that contest came one night after the Tigers topped visiting Symmes Valley in a physical battle.
While the Tigers took an entire quarter to get warmed up offensively on Saturday, their pressure defense did the job from opening tip to final buzzer.
Western’s turnovers topped 25, which led to several New Boston baskets on fast breaks —or at least like Sexton getting to the free-throw line.
Grady Jackson, who was the next highest Tiger scorer behind Sexton, made six steals.
Cox said his Tigers were “prepared more” for the Indians this time, as Western was their first scheduled game anyway — following their outright clinching of the SOC I on Jan. 31 at Ironton St. Joseph.
“We knew what we wanted to change from the first time we played them. I thought our man-to-man full-court defense just took a toll on them. I felt we were able to rotate our guards in and pressured them and forced a lot of turnovers,” said the coach. “When you play that tempo, you are going to have some turnovers yourself. But at the same time, I thought our intensity and effort and team speed on defense was there. It was giving them some trouble. We were able to establish the tempo.”
The results proved that point over the final 26-and-a-half minutes.
There were four first-quarter ties, with Western leading 8-4 at the two-and-a-half minute mark.
But the 9-2 run to close the final 1:33 of the canto, started by a Sexton steal and layup and finished by a Tanner Voiers top-of-the-key three-pointer to beat the buzzer, began the Tigers’ turnaround.
“As a team, we were able to get our legs under us. You could tell we we rusty. But our defensive pressure was there all night,” said Cox. “We forced a lot of travels, where they weren’t throwing the ball around but we were just forcing them into travels where they weren’t catching the ball in their comfort zone. You could tell when we sped them up that they weren’t comfortable. Then once we went to our bench, and our depth and quickness started playing harder, that got us going offensively too. We’re best when our defense turns into offense.”
There were eight total lead changes, including six in the second quarter, as Sexton scored to make it 24-23 —giving New Boston the lead for good.
He made two two-shot free throws for a 22-21 Tiger advantage, then converted six straight with New Boston in the one-and-one bonus situation — before finally amounting an old-fashioned three-point play with only 18 seconds remaining for a 37-25 halftime lead.
In all, it was a 16-3 spree over the final three-and-a-half minutes.
In the second half, the lead never dipped into single digits, as the Tigers continued to make steals and converted them into layups —leading 48-30 at the 5:08 mark of the third frame.
The Indians did score seven straight over the next two minutes, but Sexton stopped the Western run with another basket and two more made free throws.
The Tigers took a 52-41 advantage into the fourth quarter, and Western was unable to reduce the deficit below 11 points for the final seven-and-a-half minutes.
In fact, New Boston’s lead soon ballooned into a 23-point (73-50) bulge by the 2:52 mark — thanks in part to trifectas from Voiers (eight points), Jackson (nine points) and Jerome McKinley (five points) — although the Indians did score the final nine points.
In addition to Sexton’s offense, Cox singled out the defensive efforts of Jackson, McKinley, Devon Jones (two field goals) and Malachi Potts (one field goal) —and Chase Clark (three field goals) for blocking five shots.
Cox complimented the six-foot, six-inch center Clark on a complete 180 from the Tigers’ initial meeting with Western.
“If you would have seen the first game compared to this game, Chase Clark played 100-percent better tonight than he did at Western,” said the coach. “Up at Western, they scored 50 points in the paint. Tonight they didn’t. Our pressure man-to-man defense took them out of their comfort zone of being able to get the ball into the paint.”
Shelden Richardson, on five field goals and 4-of-6 free throws, paced the Indians with 15 points —while Coleman Gibson added 11 on three field goals and 4-of-4 foul shots.
Richardson, Gibson and Kolten Miller made a three-pointer apiece.
However, including Austin Beckett’s eight points on three baskets and 2-of-2 tosses, the Indians’ top three scorers only totaled 34 points —whereas Sexton scored 36 by himself.
Although, as Cox emphasized, it was a total team effort on Saturday night.
The Tigers, which are now a perfect 6-0 against Division III squads, travel to face Division III Minford on Tuesday night for their final non-league bout.
A win would give New Boston its first 20-win regular season since the legendary 1960 team, which went 24-1 and advanced to the state tournament.
“For us to have 20 wins in the regular season is an accomplishment,” said Cox. “The Minford game is a very big game. If we can win that one, it would really seal the season.”
* * *
Western 10 15 16 18 — 59
New Boston 13 24 15 21— 73
WESTERN 59 (8-10, 5-7 SOC I )
Reed Brewster 0 0-0 0, Terrell Francis 0 0-2 0, Coleman Gibson 3 4-4 11, Kolten Miller 2 1-1 6, Maveric Ferneau 1 0-0 2, Shelden Richardson 5 4-6 15, Austin Beckett 3 2-2 8, Wyatt Grooms 1 0-0 2, Noah Whitt 3 0-1 6, Riley Beekman 3 0-0 6, Broc Jordan 1 1-4 3, Dylan Theobald 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 22 12-21 59; Three-point goals: 3 (Coleman Gibson, Kolten Miller and Shelden Richardson 1 apiece)
NEW BOSTON 73 (19-1, 13-0 SOC I)
Malachi Potts 1 0-0 2, Grady Jackson 3 2-3 9, Tanner Voiers 3 0-0 8, Kyle Sexton 12 12-12 36, Devon Jones 2 0-3 4, Luke Henson 0 0-0 0, Blake Grant 0 0-0 0, Kage Truitt 0 0-0 0, Levi Bowman 0 0-1 0, Marcus Saunders 1 0-0 3, Jerome McKinley 1 2-4 5, Chase Clark 3 0-0 6, Brady Voiers 0 0-0 0, Austin Gosselin 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 26 16-23 73; Three-point goals: 5 (Tanner Voiers 2, Grady Jackson, Marcus Saunders and Jerome McKinley 1 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved