By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
Early in the second quarter, both the Elida Tigers and Grady Bronchos found that Saturday’s consolation game had a familiar circumstance. The difference was that Grady’s situation was just more favorable.
Colt Grau scored 14 points to lead four Bronchos in double figures, and Grady survived a fourth-quarter comeback when Elida shots fell short on the final two possessions on a 52-49 victory for the Bronchos.
Grady (6-7) had led the game by as much as 15 midway through the third quarter, but barely avoided overtime after Wesley Gilmore’s last-second 3-point attempt was off the mark for the Tigers.
“We lost a game earlier this season at Sudan the same way,” Grady coach Jim Kneipp said. “I felt like having that (experience) helped us here. You can’t do that kind of (preparation) in practice.”
The Bronchos, who only have eight players. got points from only four players, but rode those players early to jump out to a 13-4 first quarter lead — a situation that was unfortunately familiar for Elida.
“Our intensity turned up, (but) it’s the second game in a row where we’ve just scored four points in the first quarter.”
The last time, Elida (8-5) managed to pull out a 55-54 win over Floyd. This time, the Tigers were not so fortunate, as the Bronchos took advantage of an edge in free throws.
Grady shot seven more free throws than the Tigers (29 to 22) and hit six more (18 to 12), including a 9-of-9 stretch in the game’s first 14 minutes.
Many of those free throws came at bad times for Elida, Chenault felt.
“A lot of times they’d get the box-out, get the rebound and we’d whack them on the putback,” Chenault said. “We got outplayed, we got outhustled, we got outcoached.”
Steven Carter led the free-throw effort for Grady, hitting eight of his 10 attempts to finish with 12 points. Brian Blackburn scored 14 and Domingo Diaz added 10 for the Bronchos, who led 37-22 with 10:22 to go in the ballgame.
Elida inched back with an 8-0 run to bridge the third and fourth quarters, then drew within a basket when Ryan Best hit a left-corner 3-pointer with 40 seconds remaining.
Kneipp wasn’t surprised to see Elida make its comeback, but admitted a little disappointment because the Bronchos had many chances to close the game with one free throw or one basket.
“They have good shooters and they shoot the 3 fairly well,” Kneipp said. “We started the ballgame with good defensive intensity, but the longer it went, (the more) we didn’t get the intensity that we needed.”
Up 50-48, the Bronchos turned the ball over when a pass glanced off of Grau’s hands. Gilmore’s layup between a pair of defenders was off on the other end, and Carter made one of two free throws with nine seconds left to push the lead to three.
The Tigers were led by Trenton Chenault’s 12 points, while Gilmore added 11 and Ever Varela 10.