LEES CREEK — Two nights after pushing Blanchester to the final buzzer, East Clinton’s boys basketball team finally got its breakthrough Friday night.
Surging to a 21-4 lead to open the game, the Astros withstood any serious challenge from Oyler in a 66-50 victory.
The win broke a 25-game losing streak for the Astros.
The only thing that didn’t go right initially was the intended water-bucket dump on head coach Tony Berlin after the victory. They missed on the floor but didn’t miss their second chance.
“They were ready for me in the locker room,” Berlin said. “I’m more happy for the boys than I am anything else. As long of a year as it has been, they were really excited. That means more to me than anything.”
East Clinton was on fire to start the game. Branson Smith had eight points during the 21-4 run over the first 6:37 of the game. East Clinton led 21-10 after one quarter.
Oyler (7-6) tried to chip away at the Astro lead, pulling within nine at the half.
“We came out in the first quarter and played well and had a game plan,” Berlin said. “Then we went back to our way of playing. I warned them, ‘You let them in this game, they can beat you.’”
The Madhatters got as close as six in the fourth quarter. Leading 46-40, East Clinton got a big three from Matt Mitchell to go back up nine.
After Romale Lewis answered with a three of his own for Oyler, Smith and Mitchell scored back-to-back buckets to put EC up 11 with 4:40 left. The Madhatters got no closer than nine the rest of the way.
It was a monster game for Branson Smith, who led all scorers with 21 points. He also pulled down 16 rebounds. Mitchell finished with 20 points thanks in part to 5 of 9 from beyond the arc.
“Matt Mitchell stepped up and hit some big threes,” Berlin said. “Branson was his usual self.”
Berlin also noted Quinten Tolle, who in addition to six assists took three charges. Berlin said it set a program record of 91 charges taken – freshman, reserve and varsity combined.
Marcus Hutchinson had 14 points and eight rebounds to lead Oyler but battled foul trouble in the second half. Sharmon Mitchem added 12 points.
Friday, Feb. 15, 2019
@ East Clinton High School
East Clinton 66, Oyler 50
(50) OYLER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Sharmon Mitchem 5-1-1-12, Romale Lewis 1-1-5-8, Shane Butler 1-1-0-3, Marcus Hutchinson 7-0-0-14, Izaiah Cathey 2-0-0-4, De’Voy Glenn 0-0-2-2, Elijah Cathey 0-0-1-1, Deyoni Thomas 3-0-0-6. TOTALS 19-3-9-50.
(66) EAST CLINTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Branson Smith 10-1-0-21, Jared Smith 1-0-1-3, Landon Runyon 1-1-0-3, Quinten Tolle 1-0-0-2, Dylan Peterman 2-1-0-5, Matt Mitchell 7-5-1-20, Colton Vadnais 4-0-4-12. TOTALS 26-8-6-66.
FIELD GOALS: O 19/66 (Hutchinson 7/18, Mitchem 5/19); EC 26/58 (B. Smith 10/20, Mitchell 7/15, Vadnais 4/9)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: O 3/22; EC 8/16 (Mitchell 5/9)
FREE THROWS: O 9/15 (Lewis 5/5); EC 6/16 (Vadnais 4/6)
REBOUNDS: O 41 (Hutchinson 8, I. Cathey 8, Glenn 6); EC 45 (Smith 16, Tolle 7, Vadnais 6)
ASSISTS: O 6; EC 15 (Tolle 6, B. Smith 3)
STEALS: O 11 (Mitchem 3, I. Cathey 3); EC 12 (Tolle 3, B. Smith 3)
BLOCKED SHOTS: O 4 (I. Cathey 3); EC 1 (B. Smith)
TURNOVERS: O 15; EC 19
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bymattsexton.