By Nick Shook | Special to the Beacon Journal
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Saturday night’s showdown between Buchtel and Ellet was supposed to be a must-see battle between the top two teams in the City Series.
The first half lived up to expectations, with both teams trading baskets before Ellet claimed a four-point halftime lead.
The second half was a much different story.
Led by senior Jake Williams, the Orangemen (16-2, 8-2) started the third quarter on a 13-6 run and maintained their lead until the final buzzer, handing Buchtel a 65-55 home loss and its first City Series defeat of the season. Williams’ six third-quarter points helped Ellet widen its lead, but it was Karlton Cherry’s eight-point spurt that blew the game wide open in favor of the Orangemen. Cherry’s putback off a missed Dionte Williams 3-pointer prompted Buchtel coach Steve White to call a timeout, but the junior forward was just getting started.
Cherry made consecutive 3-pointers following the break, his second attempt spinning around the rim, tantalizing the Ellet faithful before finally falling through the rim to give the Orangemen a 47-29 lead and force White to call another timeout.
“Karlton’s always been able to knock down shots,” Ellet coach Mark Fisher said. “It’s just when he’s going to knock down those shots. They were big tonight. When you have a post presence like Breaon [Brady] in there, those guys are going to get open looks.”
As Fisher mentioned, Brady’s size cannot be overlooked. At 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, the junior center presented a major advantage in the post for the Orangemen. Buchtel struggled all night defending Brady, as Ellet’s crisp passes and the center’s timely rebounding helped him finish tied with Cherry in scoring, each contributing 16 points.
Senior guard Tre Smith led the Griffins with 17 points, but too often his teammates were left wondering if there was a lid on their rim.
“We couldn’t get anything to fall,” White said. “It just wasn’t our night. It was Ellet’s night, and if we get into the City championship, we’ll see.”
The two teams entered Saturday night’s game coming off Friday night victories, with Ellet beating East and Buchtel defeating Firestone. Both teams likely felt the effects of playing two games in two nights, but Ellet tightened up its game in the second half, taking advantage of cracks in the Griffins’ full-court press to keep their double-digit lead.
“We took advantage of what we can take advantage of,” Fisher said. “When we have the power, we play power. When we can shoot better, we shoot better. We’re really playing pretty good right now.”
Ellet’s win over Buchtel (12-4, 9-1) was the Orangemen’s seventh consecutive victory, a fact of which Fisher was so proud, he re-entered the locker room to double-check the length of the winning streak.
“It’s another hurdle we had to get over, beating Buchtel,” Fisher said. “Knowing that we’re here and we’re ready to go, we’ll see them again in two weeks and we’ll see what they have. I think they’ve got a little more than they showed tonight, but we’ll be ready for what they have.”
Jake Williams finished with 10 points and Dionte Williams added seven. Maurice Mackey and Jake Fisher contributed six and five, respectively, for Ellet.
Juniors Deric Rucker and Jared Puryear added 14 and eight points for the Griffins. Senior DeAngelo Smith-Wyman scored all seven of his points in the midst of a furious comeback attempt that cut the deficit to single digits with less than two minutes to go. With the Griffins forced to foul, Cherry, Fisher and Jake Williams made free throws to secure the win for the Orangemen.
The two teams face a possible rematch in the City Series Championship on Feb. 21 at Kenmore High School.