ROSEMOUNT — It’s rather rare to see an exact script-flip in two teams’ regular-season meetings in a span of just six weeks, but don’t tell that to the Green Bobcats.
In a role reversal from their first meeting of the season in Franklin Furnace back on Jan. 8, it was the visiting Bobcats (9-10, 6-6 SOC I) which — after trailing by seven points at halftime — managed to outscore host Clay (4-17, 4-9 SOC I) by 12 points in the second half to hold onto a 53-48 win in Southern Ohio Conference Division I play.
That means yes, after leading Clay 30-23 in their first meeting of the year but falling by three as an attempted game-tying shot rimmed off, the Bobcats overcame a halftime deficit of their own to pickup yet another win in league play.
That Clay defeat in early January somewhat set things into motion for where Green stands today.
Since that loss, Green has posted an 8-2 record in their last ten games after beginning the year 1-8 in their first nine — a true sign of improvement under first year coach Scott Blankenship.
Blankenship credited his team’s comeback in their second meeting with the Panthers to their defensive adjustments from the first time around, and he’s likely correct.
Malone scored 17 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter of the Panthers’ prior 51-48 win, accounting for over 80-percent of Clay’s 21 points in the final period when they outscored Green 21-6.
On Friday, the Bobcats held the first team all-SOC forward to just one field goal and five-of-eight foul shooting in the game’s final eight minutes.
“First off it was the defensive changes that the coaching staff applied,” Blankenship said. “We knew coming into the game that we had to stop (Shaden) Malone. The last time we played he went off in the 4th quarter. I feel like with the adjustments that were made, our team executed the defensive plan and they were able to contain him. Our kids’ defensive pressure dictated the outcome at the end of the game.”
Malone still finished with a game-high 25 points, 15 of which came in the second and third periods combined.
When Green made their run to cut Clay’s lead to just two by the end of the third quarter, they did so behind their senior guards.
Senior Levi Singleton canned-home a trio of three-pointers — each of Green’s long-range makes in the win — during the third period after a scoreless first half, and senior Ethan Huffman scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second half.
Sophomore Levi Sampson scored 17 points also in the win, including seven of their 18 fourth quarter points.
“When you have senior leadership of that caliber, you tend to want to lean on them and they came up big. We scored 19 points in the 3rd quarter and those two accounted for 15 of the 19 points,” Blankenship said. “Huffman had a huge steal and a layup in a crucial time of the ballgame and Singleton knocked down three 3’s that were huge game changers.”
Clay was without coach Garrick ‘Tiny’ Anderson after he and his wife welcomed a new daughter to the world last Friday. Former Valley coach and Anderson’s top assistant, Eric Horton, held the coaching duties in his absence.
Jaden Jessee added 11 points for the Panthers as Clay connected on just one three-point make — a first quarter bucket by senior Jaymes Jones.
The Panthers are set to conclude their regular season slate on Tuesday (Feb. 16) with a road trip to Latham to face Western in SOC I play.
Green has a pair of games set for this week — a trip to Eastern on Tuesday in non-league play before welcoming East to ‘The Furnace’ on Friday seeking another league win.
In their upcoming tournament run, the Bobcats were seeded No. 14 and will host No. 19-seed Southern in a Division IV sectional semifinal scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 24.
The winner between Green and Southern will travel to Stewart to face No. 3-seed Federal Hocking on Saturday, Feb. 27.
In preparation for the final two weeks of the season, Blankenship says the Bobcats hope to push their proverbial “pedal to the floor” and continue forward with their momentum they’ve gained since early January.
“We want to maintain the momentum that we have had at the end of the regular season going into the tournament,” Blankenship said. “Make sure that we continue playing aggressive on the defensive end and minimize turnovers. When tournament time comes, you always want to put the pedal to the floor. We have been in some close games lately and our kids are finding ways to win and that says a lot.”
Green 6 10 19 18 — 53
Clay 12 11 14 11 — 48
GREEN 53 (9-10, 6-6 SOC I)
Levi Sampson 6 5-12 17, Ethan Huffman 6 5-7 17, Levi Blevins 1 2-2 4, Levi Waddell 0 0-0 0, Levi Singleton 3 0-0 9, Wiley Sanders 3 0-0 6; TOTALS 19 12-21 53; Three-point field goals: 3 (Levi Singleton 3)
CLAY 48 (4-17, 4-9 SOC I)
Clay Cottle 2 0-0 4, Shaden Malone 9 7-11 25, Gavin Cayton 0 1-2 1, Carson Porginski 1 0-0 2, Cullen Payne 0 0-0 0, Jaymes Jones 1 0-0 3, Brandon Malone 0 0-0 0, Evan Balestra 1 0-0 2, Jaden Jessee 5 1-2 11; TOTALS 19 9-15 48; Three-point field goals: 1 (Jaymes Jones 1)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved