It’s tough to win a race when it takes half the laps to get started.
Upper Sandusky found itself down 23 points before it fired up the engine Saturday, mounting another impressive comeback but falling short in a 68-59 North Central Conference loss to Buckeye Central at Upper Sandusky High School.
Buckeye Central’s Sam Robertson tied the Rams’ Wes Vent with a game-high 22 points. It was an easy night for the big man, as the Bucks guards found openings in the Rams’ defense and set up Robertson all night.
“If we can get some dribble penetration, the bigs just have to have their hands ready,” Bucks coach Phil Loy said. “They live off that.”
Cade Kaple had 12 points, five rebounds and six assists, Austin Wurm had 12 points and three others had six or more for the Bucks (9-1, 3-1 NCC).
“It’s a great win. Upper is very athletic; they have a nice team and play hard,” Loy said. “I thought it was key for us to get out to an early lead. They’ve been down before at halftime and come right back.”
The Bucks are tied for first in the NCC with Colonel Crawford and Bucyrus. Upper Sandusky (6-5, 3-2 NCC) had sole possession of the league lead, but is now fourth after back-to-back setbacks.
Turnovers plagued the Rams. They forced the Bucks into 18, but had 20 themselves and strewn them out evenly over four quarters.
Upper Sandusky had the ball down nine with 2:26 left when Vent cut just as point guard Cody Clifford was passing it to him at the perimeter.
With two minutes to go, Cody Collins was called for traveling as he drove the lane and finished in traffic with what may have been a three-point play to get within 57-51. One official whistled a foul, and another dubbed it a turnover.
Time ran out on the Rams after that.
“(Friday), we had no passion,” said Upper Sandusky coach Jeff Winslow, whose Rams lost to Bucyrus on Friday. “I thought we came out with passion and got after it, but we just struggled to put the ball in the hole.”
Upper Sandusky has had a shoddy battery many times this season and has jump-started it late twice to give itself an opportunity. The Rams beat Wynford in overtime after a 17-point deficit and lost to Shelby on the final possession after trailing by 10 at halftime.
The Bucks executed far too often, though, finishing 25 of 46 (54 percent) from the field in spite of an ugly fourth quarter.
Had all of the Rams duplicated Seth Frey’s effort, this one might not have gotten away. The junior finished with 15 points, five steals, three rebounds and two blocks, a four-quarter force.
“I was super impressed with him,” Winslow said. “He was on different players all night long and he did his assignment on any player he was on. I think he really ended up guarding that Caple kid better than anybody. … He’s really playing well right now.”
Vent had 11 rebounds as the Rams smoked the Bucks in rebounding with 25, falling one offensive rebound shy of the Bucks’ 15 total boards, but could not match Buckeye Central’s efficiency on the other end on a 21-of-44 night.
Attacking the basket for easy points and free throws is Winslow’s motto. It was the Bucks living by it Saturday, while their guards covered up their counterparts on the other end to keep the Rams out of the lane.
“The Wurm kid and Caple, they’re very good players and first team all-leaguers,” Winslow said. “It’s tough guarding them with one guy so you got to look to help. We were helping, but then we weren’t helping the helper. We had to sink down and we just didn’t do that part of it.”
At least for two and a half quarters.
Up 37-24 at halftime, the Bucks scored the first 10 points of the second half. Stone Wurm intercepted Vent’s pass and took it all the way for a 47-24 lead with 5:42 left in the third quarter.
“(The lead) never felt comfortable,” Loy said. “At halftime, we said we needed to come out and jump on them in the third quarter, and we did.”
Vent, who drained three 3s, hip-checked Stone Wurm and sank a short jumper to make it 49-38 with 55 seconds left in the quarter.
“The way we played after the first three minutes of the third quarter, that’s how we can play,” Winslow said. “It’s got to be similar to that for four quarters. I think sometimes makes or misses determine how we’re going to play. If we’re making shots, we’re getting after it and if we’re missing shots, we kind of don’t. It’s got to be the other way around, almost.”
Robertson finished on the other end, and that theme flowed into the fourth quarter. Buckeye Central shot 2 of 11, but always kept the Rams at arm’s length. Up 11 heading into the final frame, the Bucks led by eight or more the entire last stanza.
The Bucks led 14-10 after the first quarter, when they started distancing themselves with a 12-3 run that began with 1:43 left.
The Rams play at Colonel Crawford at 6 p.m. Saturday.
BUCKEYE CENTRAL (9-1, 4-1 NCC): Robertson 10-2-22, Kaple 3-5-12, A. Wurm 2-7-12, Stacklin 3-2-8, Heydinger 3-0-6, S. Wurm 3-0-6, Ollis 1-0-2. Totals 16-29 68.
UPPER SANDUSKY (6-5, 3-2 NCC): Vent 7-5-22, Frey 6-2-15, Clifford 4-2-10, Roeder 2-0-4, Myers 1-2-4, Collins 0-2-2, Mittermaier 1-0-2. Totals 13-19 59.
3-point goals: Vent 3, Frey, Kaple, A. Wurm.
Score by quarters
Buckeye Central 14 23 14 17 — 68
Upper Sandusky 10 14 14 21 — 59
Junior varsity: Buckeye Central won, 43-41.
By NICK MARLOW