NEWARK, Ohio -- In a matchup between the leaders of each division of the LCL, the Heath Bulldogs went on the road to defeat the Licking Valley Panthers (3-3), 43-36. The Bulldogs kept their undefeated season going as they improve to 11-0, due to their relentless defense.
Both teams opened up the first quarter with “and one” baskets, one each by Licking Valley senior Ethan Curry and Heath sophomores Brandon McLaughlin, and Keylan Williams. Senior Carson Conley had a solid first frame by providing seven of the teams 11 first quarter points. This wasn’t enough as Heath held a first quarter lead of 14-11.
Williams had a strong start to the second quarter on both ends of the floor. He provided the Bulldogs with two solid drives to the hoop to go along with a huge block.
Heath’s sophomore Reece Huber gave the Bulldogs a spark off the bench in the first half by doing a little bit of everything, making him quite the “stat sheet stuffer." Huber ended the half with two points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Two minutes into the second half, Heath’s sophomore duo of McLaughlin and Williams were on fire, scoring four points each. McLaughlin had quite the impressive third quarter by providing nine points, three rebounds in the frame, to go along with stellar defense at the top of Heath’s half court trap.
Despite Heath’s solid quarter, Licking Valley’s sophomore Dillan Stewart kept the Panthers in the game entering the fourth with a buzzer beating three pointer to end the third quarter cutting the Bulldogs lead to eight.
In a late attempt to close the deficit for the Panthers, Conley had a great fourth quarter. The senior’s fourth quarter consisted of eight points, two rebounds, and two steals. The fourth quarter was a continued defensive slugfest by both squads, however it was too much for Licking Valley to overcome resulting in a seven-point Heath victory.
The scoring leaders for Heath were McLaughlin with 18 and Keylan Williams with 14. McLaughlin also added 16 rebounds to go along with four blocks.
The scoring leaders for Licking Valley were Carson Conley with 15 points and Ethan Curry with 11 points. Conley also added eight rebounds to go along with three steals.
At 11-0, Heath is off to its best start since the 2016-17 season when seniors Denton Jacob and Aaron Latoslias led the Bulldogs to the Division II district finals. While we knew McLaughlin and Williams were special when we saw them last season, we didn't see them dominating the LCL this early.
Heath will finish off the season with eight of its last 11 games in LCL play, which could see the Bulldogs enter the district tournament as one of the top seeds.
Brandon McLaughlin (6'8 PF / Heath / 2022): The Heath big man dominated the game on both ends of the floor. McLaughlin finished well around the basket all night and showed the ability to beat his man off the dribble. He finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds, dominating both ends of the floor on the glass. McLaughlin was active around the basket all night, rebounding at an elite level both in and out of his area. That effort helped him create high efficiency looks around the rim, and while he didn't finish at a high level for the entire game, McLaughlin showed an intriguing ability to beat his man off the bounce, as his handling coordination at his size is something you don't typically see from young bigs. His four blocks don’t begin to tell how many shots he changed on the night, as McLaughlin's impressive length and timing kept Licking Valley off balance all night. Heath used McLaughlin’s length at the point of their half court trapping defense, as the sophomore showed an ability to contain ball handlers on the perimeter, which could help him become one of the better two-way bigs in the class. In an era where bigs need to be able to switch out onto guards and wings on the perimeter, having switchability is a major asset and McLaughlin showed the signs of that on Wednesday.
Keylan Williams (6'5 WG / Heath / 2022): Williams is a versatile guard that is great off the dribble. At 6-foot-5 he is a tough matchup in the LCL. The sophomore has the look of a natural scorer and has big upside. He is long and athletic, which allows him to guard multiple positions on the perimeter as well as challenge shots in the paint. We were impressed with Williams' aggressiveness off the bounce, as he was constantly looking to attack slower footed defenders. He's grown in that area since last year, as he is no longer just looking to shoot outside jumpers. but is now taking advantage of his size and length to get to the rim. Defensively, Williams showed some real promise, swatting four shots, three of which in transition where he showed great recovery speed to get back into the play. With a tight handle, finishing ability with either hand and defensive upside on the perimeter, Williams is a prospect to keep an eye on in the 2022 class.
Carson Conley (6'1 PG / Licking Valley / 2020): The four year starter is one of the most complete guards in the area and has improved his offensive arsenal every year. Conley is the leader, floor general, and focal point offensively given that the Panthers run nearly everything through the 6-foot-1 guard. He is also a fantastic passer and finds his teammates for opportunities both in the half court and in transition. Conley will have to continue to be Licking Valley's driving force on both ends of the floor if the Panthers want to have a successful season. After helping lead the Licking Valley football program to the state championship game, Conley is clearly back in prime basketball shape, as he has been one of the area's best all-around guards in the early stages of the season.
Reece Huber (6'2 G / Heath / 2022): Huber is instant energy as sixth man for Heath. The sophomore was in constant attack mode from the moment he entered the game, which resulted in him filling of the stat sheet. Huber is the perfect compliment to fellow sophomores Williams and McLaughlin, as he provides toughness, playmaking ability off the bounce and was one of the game's best defenders. We were really impressed with Huber's defense on Conley, as he stayed in front of the tough senior guard and made him work for everything. An alum of the 270 Hoops Open Fall League, Huber was one of the top rising prospects in that event, as he made his mark with his effort and toughness, traits that carried over in Heath's 11th-straight win on Wednesday.