Four quarters of back-and-forth basketball between the Batavia Bulldogs and Eastern Warriors came down to the final shot.
After a late three by Kade Walkup tied the game at 52, Batavia’s Christian Conner put in a shot from the low block at the buzzer to propel the Bulldogs to a 54-52 win over the host Warriors on Saturday, December 3.
That victory is a key one for a Batavia squad that had just dropped a tough 53-48 decision to Wilmington one night prior despite leading entering the final period.
“We struggled last night, we had a lead going into the fourth quarter at Wilmington and we struggled,” Brose said. “We turned it over a few times. That’s what we talked about, what did we learn from last night? We know we’re going to take some lumps from an experience standpoint, but even when they got a one-point lead, we didn’t get rattled. We stayed with it, we kept moving the ball, we didn’t force things all the time and then we got a good look.”
Early on, it appeared Walkup was going to shoot Batavia out of the gym. He connected on four threes in the first quarter, propelling the Warriors to a 16-13 lead after one period.
Batavia took a lead at the 3:58 mark of the second quarter but quickly fell behind 26-22 with 1:40 remaining in the half.
The Bulldogs rallied. Xavier Taylor and Conner McElfresh connected on a pair of three-point shots to give Batavia a lead. Eastern rallied to regain the late advantage but a basket by Christian Conner gave the Bulldogs a 30-28 lead at halftime.
Walkup hit two more threes in the third period and Eastern’s Donovan Mynatt made a basket at the buzzer to put the Warriors ahead 40-39 after three quarters.
Batavia led 52-49 with 16.7 seconds to play. Eastern’s Walkup missed a three but Eastern pulled down the rebound and found him again. He didn’t miss the second chance and the Warriors tied things up with four seconds to play.
Batavia inbounded the ball to Taylor who took it right up the court to the right elbow. One pass to Conner and one basket later Batavia had improved to 2-1 on the season.
“I think we broke down,” Eastern head coach Rob Beucler said. “We’re young. At the end, we played hard, gave ourselves a chance. We missed some free-throws, missed a couple assignments. At the end, that’s not what we wanted to do. A kid went north-south and we’d prefer them to catch it going the other way, or at least have somebody in front of them to change direction and that didn’t happen. We had to help and we didn’t rotate, they were all looking at the ball. It’s a learning thing.”
Walkup finished with 28 points. All eight of his made field goals were three-point shots. He also had two assists.
“We were face guarding and we had a hand up,” Brose said. “If we didn’t have a hand up it was in. Going into the g ame, we said we had to stop this guy, but a guy hitting that many threes is tough to stop.”
Beucler said Walkup did a better job offensively in the second half than he did in the first. His supporting cast played better around him as well.
“He shot the ball but he has to let the game come to him,” Beucler said. “Catch it when you’re there, play the game instead of pushing too hard and letting it happen. He shot well from three, he started attacking the basket. We got good help out of the bigs tonight, they defended the basket and rebounded pretty well.”
Mynatt and Luke Haney had six points each. Pryce Murphy tallied five. Drew Edmisten finished with three, Dylin Pierson added two and Caleb Jimison and Wyatt Haupt scored one point each.
The loss dropped Eastern to 0-3 on the season. The warriors dropped a 64-37 contest to Fairfield one night prior.
“I thought the kids did a lot better [against Batavia],” Beucler said. “Last night was not very good. We talked in the morning and came back in at shoot around later today before we played. It’s a learning curve, you have to keep working at it and getting better. Improve on basketball IQ, do what we can do.”
Jess Roller tallied 16 points and a team-high seven rebounds for the Bulldogs. He connected on 10 of 12 free-throw attempts.
Taylor also had 16 points to go along with six assists and five rebounds.
Conner finished with nine points and four blocks. McElfresh and Logan Brose scored six points apiece. Isaac Bell had one point for Batavia.
“That’s how we’re going to have to be,” Aaron Brose said. “Jess did score a lot in the first half for us. Then they got into that zone and we had to hit some perimeter shots like I think we can this year. We have to get inside a little bit more but I thought we did a good job of guys taking shots at the right time.”
Eastern travels to West Union for a 6 p.m. tipoff on Friday, December 9. Batavia is scheduled to travel to New Richmond that same night.