There is no longer a tie for first place in boys basketball in the Ridge and Valley Conference.
The Trojans beat the Indians 42-34 Tuesday night in Seneca to improve their conference record to 9-1. With the victory, North Crawford took sole possession of first place in the conference for the first time this season. With the loss, Seneca’s conference record fell to 8-2 and they are now in second place. Ithaca is in third place at 7-3. There are four more Ridge and Valley games scheduled.
The final score really didn’t tell the story of a hard-fought game that only broke North Crawford’s way in the last two-and-a-half minutes.
Things started well for the Trojans as the Indians failed to convert on their first three possessions and North Crawford soon held a 6-0 lead. However, the Indians eventually found themselves and when senior forward Devin McCullick scored in the lane with 1:20 to go in the quarter they took a 7-6 lead.
Then, North Crawford’s senior guard Zach McCann was fouled and went to the line making the first and missing the second. A Trojan tapped the loose rebound back to him and he converted in the lane to make it 9-7. The quarter ended with the score 9-7.
Seneca roared back in the second quarter and led 17-11 at halftime powered by Ethan Grimsled. The big post player had 10 of the team’s 17 points in the first half going 4-5 from the free throw line and scoring three field goals.
Seneca’s Devin McCullick scored four points in the first half and Lucas Trautsch scored the other three.
The struggling Trojans were led at halftime by junior forward Joe Childs with four points and McCann with three points. Grant Dull and Cody Hershberger each scored two points.
How bad were things going for the Trojans in the first half. Well, Seneca outscored North Crawford 17-5 in the last 12 minutes of the half. Shots just wouldn't’ fall. The Trojans also were unable to get a turnover from the Indians, who were definitely taking care of the ball.
North Crawford also lacked their fast break opportunities because Seneca was back quickly on defense and packed into a very active zone. When North Crawford finally got a bit of fast break late in the half and Childs drove the lane he was unable to convert the uncontested shot.
It was frustrated Trojan team that headed to the locker room. However, it was anything but an overconfident Indian team heading to the locker room at halftime. They knew there was plenty of basketball left to play n the second half.
The second half opened with a North Crawford flourish as Childs made a free throw and then hit a three-pointer to cut the Seneca lead quickly to 17-15. Shortly Hershberger hit and three-pointer and the Trojans led 18-17.
Then, North Crawford’s Joe Bedessem fouled Ethan Grimsled, who converted the first free throw and missed the second. A Seneca player tipped him the ball and he put it in. The Indians are back in the lead 20-18 with 5:13 left in the third quarter.
From there, Seneca’s McCullick hit two three pointers and with some other scoring the Indians go up 28-18.
With the score 28-20, North Crawford responded, when Childs hits a three-pointer and then steals the ball from Grimsled. Dull came alive at the buzzer hitting another three-pointer as the Trojans cut the Indians lead to just two points 28-26 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter began with Grimsled making a two-pointer to make the score 30-26. Dull picked up where he left off at the end of the third quarter and hit a three-pointer to make it a one-point ball game30-29.
When Trojan sophomore Tyler Olson hit a three-pointer North Crawford led 32-30. Grimsled responded with a lay-up and the score was tied 32-32 with 3:17 left.
With 2:54 left in the game, Childs is fouled in the act of shooting and makes both free throws to make it North Crawford 34 Seneca 32.
The Trojans regained control of the ball and started holding onto it forcing Seneca to come out of the zone and match up in a man-to-man defense, Grimsled committed his third foul of the game when he fouled Zach McCann with 1:43 left. Seneca then called timeout.
McCann missed the free throw, but puts in shot to make it 36-32.
On the other end, McCullick missed a long three-pointer, but Payne put in the rebound to allow the Indians to pull within two points of the Trojans at 36-34.
Payne then fouls Dull, who made the first of two free throws, but missed the second. A North Crawford player tipped the ball to Dull. The Trojans’ Olson wound up at the line and made both free throws to make the score 38-34.
The Trojans then stole the ball in the forecourt from the Indians, who were forced to foul Dull again. The senior guard made both free throws to make the score 40-34 with just 15 seconds left.
Seneca’s Trautsch missed a three-point attempt and North Crawford’s Olson got the rebound. He was fouled by McCullick and made both free throws to make the score 42-34 with six seconds left.
Childs led the Trojans in scoring with 13 and Dull scored 12 points after scoring only two points in the first half. McCann scored seven points, while sophomores Olson and Hershberger each scored five points.
Seneca’s Ethan Grimsled led all scorers with 17 points and McCullick scored 10 points. Trenton Payne scored four points, while sophomore Lucas Trautsch scored thee points.
Dull acknowledged later that the Trojans struggled early.
“We started slow and just couldn’t make anything, but we kept playing hard,” Dull said. “Then, we started hitting some shots and our pressure caught up with them. We made some plays at the end.”
Seneca’s Trenton Payne described the game unraveling for the Indians at the end.
“We started turning the ball over and they made their shots,” Payne said.
Payne conceded the pace of the game fatigued the Indians a bit toward the very end.
“We were tired at the end of the game,” Payne said. “We’re bigger and slower. We’re physically bigger guys than they are.”
While there was no lack of effort on either team’s part, it seemed safe to say that both teams were tighter than they have been for most of the season-no doubt in part from knowing they were playing for first place in the conference.
The season resumes this Friday, Feb. 3 when Seneca hosts Weston (1-9) and North Crawford hosts LaFarge (4-6).