BLANCHESTER — A defensive switch proved to be key for Blanchester Saturday night as the Wildcats held off Goshen 52-50.
After an early stretch in man-to-man defense, the Wildcats (2-1) switched to a 3-2 zone, and Goshen struggled to shoot over the zone.
The Warriors didn’t score over the final 5:26 of the first half, turning a 19-15 Goshen lead into a 29-19 Wildcat advantage at the break.
“We went to the (zone) to see if we could close out shooters better and still cover their big,” BHS head coach Adam Weber said. “It turned out to be what we needed in the second quarter. We weren’t going to overthink it. We were going to ride that ‘32’ all the way to the end.”
Goshen’s shooting warmed up in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Warriors, so did Blanchester’s Brayden Sipple.
In the third, the Warriors made 8 of 15 shots from the floor including 3 of 7 from outside the arc. The 19-point quarter ended on a Jack Webster three as the buzzer sounded.
However, Sipple took all nine Blanchester shots in the period and made seven. He scored all 15 Wildcat points in the frame, and Blan took a 44-38 lead to the fourth.
“When you’re coaching and you literally have a guy that can crack through a zone, get to the middle of the lane and hit five straight jumpers, you can trick yourself into thinking you should try something different,” Weber said. “He’s impressive.”
Blanchester’s lead was trimmed to one, 46-45, with 5:49 left. Sipple knocked down a three to push the advantage back to four.
Webster answered with 3:51 left to again bring the Warriors within a point. They would not score again until the final buzzer.
Leading by a point, it was Bryce Highlander who buried a critical three with 2:45 remaining to put the Wildcats up by four.
“Last year, we talked about Tanner Creager being a game-saver,” Weber said. “I think Bryce is turning out to be that game-saver this year. We were running so much stuff through Brayden, and then when they bring three defenders at him, it seems like Highlander is always there to knock one down.”
Goshen got no closer. While the Wildcats were unable to totally ice the game at the free-throw line, the Warriors continued to miss from the outside, making just 2 of 12 from three-point range in the final period. Webster scored as the buzzer sounded, but it was too little, too late.
Sipple made 15 of 25 from the floor and 11 of 15 from the line to finish with 43 points. He also had 10 rebounds. He is now at 1,971 career points, just 29 shy of becoming the third boys basketball player in Clinton County history, and fourth overall, to reach the 2,000-point mark.
Webster led the Warriors with 16 points, while Trey Wilson had 12. Goshen made just 8 of 35 from beyond the arc.
Weber’s celebratory mood quickly turned somber after the game at the mention of his passing of his mentor, former East Clinton athletic director Jim Marsh.
Weber, during his time at Wilmington College, worked out with the football team during the offseason. That was where he became friends with Marsh, who was on the coaching staff of the Quakers.
“They were always trying to talk me into playing DB or safety,” Weber said. “Marsh always treated me like one of his guys.”
They were reunited when Weber was the boys basketball coach at East Clinton after Marsh took over as the Astros’ athletic director.
Weber learned of Marsh’s passing when Blanchester held a moment of silence prior to Saturday’s tip-off.
“Before the game was the first I had heard about it,” Weber said. “That man mentored me. He was one of the kindest men. We spent a lot of time discussing life, players, things that you don’t think a coach and athletic director would talk about.
“This is going to be a very emotional night now that this game is over and I’ve got time to think about it. He’s going to be greatly missed.”
Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020
At Blanchester High School
Blanchester 52, Goshen 50
(50) GOSHEN (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Brice Brewer 1-0-0-2, Jack Webster 6-4-0-16, Hunter Stroud 3-1-0-7, Garrett Whitaker 2-1-0-5, Trey Wilson 6-0-0-12, Ashton Harris 3-2-0-8. TOTALS 21-8-0-50.
(52) BLANCHESTER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Bryce Highlander 1-1-0-3, Brayden Sipple 15-2-11-43, Colton Wilson 2-0-0-4, Logan Heitzman 0-0-2-2. TOTALS 18-3-13-52.
FIELD GOALS: G 21/59 (Webster 6/17, Wilson 6/12); B 18/37 (Bra. Sipple 15/25, Wilson 2/2)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: G 8/35 (Webster 4/11, Harris 2/9); B 3/11 (Bra. Sipple 2/5)
FREE THROWS: G 0/0; B 13/20 (Bra. Sipple 11/15)
REBOUNDS: G 29 (Webster 6, Wilson 6, Brewer 4); B 33 (Bra. Sipple 10, Wilson 5, Hartmann 4)
ASSISTS: G 13 (Harris 4, Zeinner 3); B 6 (Heitzman 3, Bra. Sipple 2)
STEALS: G 7 (Zeinner 3); B 7 (Bra. Sipple 4, Wilson 3)
BLOCKED SHOTS: G 2; B 0
TURNOVERS: G 10; B 17
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @MattSextonPxP.