WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- For the second straight game, Westerville South has used a second half comeback to kick off their season. Unlike Friday's opening result, which ended in an overtime loss against Gahanna, the Cats (1-1) were able to overcome a near double digit deficit and secured a 54-49 win over Dublin Coffman (1-1).
In his second game as boys head coach of Coffman, Adam Banks had his team execute an effective defensive approach that put the Rocks ahead 30-21 early in the third quarter. Up to this point, Coffman had used a relatively deep roster to target South guard Kruz McClure into double teams as they held him to just five first half points and forced the Cats into series of turnovers.
McClure could only be contained for so long.
In front of Miami (OH) head coach Travis Steele and two assistants, Kruz kicked into another gear. After scoring two straight baskets off turnovers followed by two free throws, McClure ended the half and found Amari Hodges, who missed Friday's game, for a corner three at the third quarter buzzer to give the Cats 36-34 lead into the final period.
Coffman responded sharply in the fourth, led behind their own impressive McClure, specifically junior guard Colin McClure who scored five straight points to begin the period. The Rocks would hold two separate four point leads until Colin McClure picked up his fourth foul at the 5:24 mark.
With Colin on the bench, Kruz would follow with the play of the game, a fouled made three point attempt, as he finished on the four-point play to tie the game at 42 each.
South would take the lead on a Tyler Kielmeyer lay-in, who had an impactful fourth quarter, and the Cats would go to finish their last four points at the free throw line, good for the five point win.
Both McClures led their teams in scoring, Kruz with a game-high 23 and Colin with 20 points. They not only were both squad's most talented scorers, but each were difference makers in nearly every aspect. Kruz finished with five rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Colin three rebounds and two steals.
Hodges was a welcomed playmaker as his return had bright moments toward a ten point, two assist performance. Sophomore big Hasan Kaba added eight points and four rebounds, while Kielmeyer finished with seven points and four boards as well.
Beyond Colin's 20 points, Coffman's production was consistent across the board. Senior guard Declan Faherty was the night's best long-range shooter, connecting on four triples for his 12 points. Junior Stone Clifton added eight, while the Rocks received a strong effort from players Kyle Schmidt, Peyton Blankenship, Ryan Kirkby and Gabe Schmidt.
Both teams will look to split their 1-1 record with the season's first league matchup on Friday. South will have their third straight home game and play Dublin Scioto, while Coffman hosts Olentangy Liberty.
For more on Tuesday's game, check out the 5 Keys
1. Kruz Control - The 6'5 junior guard's sensational second half showed why he's been the attention of area D1 programs, as Tuesday was the second straight game he was paid a visit from MAC coaches. McClure nearly wiped out Coffman's third quarter lead on his own, as he scored eight and assisted on five of his team's 15 points. Kudos to McClure for overcoming a somewhat frustrating first half, where Coffman had some success in preventing him from easy shots and into a handful of turnovers. But McClure has that extra gear that only a handful of area kids possess, that has led him to score 58 points in his first two outings. The Cats officially have their next big player and he's really, really good.
2. Not Always Pretty, But Better Be Tough - That can be a takeaway for South head coach Ed Calo on Tuesday in regard to his team's effort. Apologies for not having the official turnover count, but there were a lot. Not all were bad, some with the right intention, but Coffman's pressure too often got the best of the Cats and nearly allowed the Rocks to regain the lead after back-to-back turnovers late in the fourth cut the deficit to three. Yet South used a selfless effort to create turnovers of their own, taking multiple charges and diving for loose balls. Senior guard Drazen Smith stood out early on with non-stat sheet type plays, while Kielmeyer also put his body on the line. The season is young and the mistakes can be improved upon, but seeing a high-energy effort is worth commending.
3. A New Era at Coffman: For the first year in 21 seasons, someone not named Jamey Collins was head coach of the boys Coffman team. After a four-year run, Banks is now looking to duplicate the success he previously had with the Coffman girls team. Even in defeat, the Rocks looked the part of a well-rounded, fundamental roster that played with high effort. They committed defensively, crashed the boards and have a difference maker in Colin McClure. I'm not sure how high this team's ceiling is, but Tuesday night's performance indicated Coffman will be a team to not take lightly.
4. Welcome Back, Amari - After missing Friday's home opener versus Gahanna due to injury, the junior guard returned to the starting lineup and gave South a much needed additional threat. Hodges was a help from outside with two made threes, but also did a nice job of pushing tempo. The Cats can't depend on Kruz to put up over 20 points each game and Amari makes for a fantastic backcourt mate to play off McClure.
5. League Play Awaits - With two games under their belt, both South and Coffman begin their respective conference play on Friday. With South in the Capital division and Coffman in the equally competitive Central, getting a good start will be imperative. South will have a dogfight for the top of the standings with Westerville North and Delaware Hayes, considered two of the area's top five teams. Coffman is used to a gauntlet of parity play in the Central, as Hilliard Bradley leads a deep conference that includes Olentangy Orange, Olentangy Liberty, Upper Arlington and Hilliard Davidson. I don't expect any team to go undefeated in the conference. Both the Cats and the Rocks showed they have a grittiness to compete, but will have to clean up some miscues and build dependable scorers behind their respective McClure's.