NEWARK, Ohio -- Since joining the OCC-Capital division in the 2016-17 season, the Newark Wildcats have yet to lose a game on their home floor in Jim Allen Gymnasium. That impressive 18-game streak continued Friday as the Wildcats defeated Canal Winchester by a score of 57-47.
Senior Bobby Crenshaw started things off for the Wildcats by grabbing a nice steal leading to a transition layup.
While Newark struggled to score in the first frame, junior Kade Bafford was able to step up in a huge way defensively by taking two of his three charges in the first quarter.
At the end of the first quarter, senior Bilal Sow of Canal Winchester and junior Elijah Hinton of Newark traded strong finishes through contact and getting fouled. Hinton wasn’t able to convert the and-one, resulting in a 12-11 first quarter lead for the Indians.
Newark’s junior Drew Ballinger was able to do his part in the second quarter, by providing six of his 14 points. He was also able to give Newark the lead on a transition basket midway through the second quarter.
At about the two minute point in the first half, Bafford drained a three pointer to extend the Wildcats lead to 20-13. Bafford held Canal Winchester’s leading scorer on the season Sow to just two first half points in an impressive defensive performance.
Senior Avery Musick made a nifty blow by drive to end the first half, but it wasn’t enough as the Wildcats led the Indians 26-17 at halftime.
Newark won the second quarter by a score of 15-5 giving the Wildcats the edge entering into the second half.
The second half started the same way that it ended, with a Newark run. This run was led by back-to back steals leading to transition layups by Bafford and Crenshaw, which extended Newark’s lead to 38-21 with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
Senior Cole Metzler of Canal Winchester made an impressive spin move as he made a contact drive to the basket that cut Newark’s lead to 14 with 2:03 left in the third quarter.
Despite Bilal Sow’s strong seven point third quarter, Newark still led by double digits at 43-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Indians cut the Wildcats lead to seven. This run didn’t last long as Bafford dropped a dime to a driving Ballinger and then Crenshaw had back-to-back offensive rebound put backs to seemingly put the game out of reach.
The Indians started to make another run with a deep three pointer by Sow and then a transition layup by Musick that cut Newark’s lead to five with 50 seconds left in the game, however, that was too little too late as the host Wildcats took down Canal for its 18th-consecutive home win in conferance play.
Newark got big offensive nights from Ballinger and Crenshaw, which highlights their continued growth of their offensive games. Crenshaw sealed the outcome with a breakaway dunk that highlighted a stellar 20-point six-rebound performance. Ballinger, thought by most to be a spot up three point shooter, showed the rest of his arsenal on Friday. Canal Winchester took away his perimeter looks forcing Ballinger to respond by attacking the rim and offensive glass, which resulted in a 14-point 11-rebound showing.
Canal Winchester big man Sow found offensive looks hard to come by against a scrappy Newark defense. He worked hard all night and helped keep his team close in the second half. He scored 12 of his team high 14 points after halftime and added a team high eight boards.
Newark (11-2, 4-1) takes control in the OCC-Capital with its win on Friday and will be a major threat to win the division for the fourth-straight season before realignment takes over after this year.
Don’t look for Canal Winchester (7-3, 3-2) to show Newark any love on Valentines Day when the Indians host the Wildcats in the regular season finale with a possible league title on the line.