CANAL WINCHESTER, Ohio -- For the first time since joining the OCC-Capital in 2016, Newark (11-2) no longer has a zero in the conference loss column.
Sparked by a 22-7 first quarter, Canal Winchester (11-0) remained unbeaten and snapped Newark's 24-game OCC win streak in a 67-61 victory on Friday.
The Indians were led by junior forward Bilal Sow, who went for a game-high 26 points and eight rebounds. Sow put the finishing touches on the dominant first quarter, draining a contested three in the left corner at the buzzer.
Dominating the boards and playing with great confidence on the offensive end of the floor, Canal Winchester looked like the more experienced team on Friday. Putting Newark in unfamiliar territory, the Indians moved the ball around, got plenty of second chance points and led by double digits for most of the second quarter.
Going into halftime trailing 34-23, Newark's two-plus season long win streak was in jeopardy.
The Wildcats came out with great intensity in the second half, finding easy looks inside to trim the Indians lead to 41-36 with 5:05 to go in the third quarter. When it seemed as if Newark was ready to take the lead, Canal Winchester responded, as a great post score from junior forward Cole Metzler extended the Indians' lead back to eight at 50-42 with 1:45 left in the period.
Holding tough in the final minute, Canal Winchester took a 54-48 lead into the final frame.
As expected, Newark entered the fourth quarter with great intensity, going on a 6-2 run in the first three minutes, as a driving layup from sophomore guard Drew Ballinger trimmed the lead to 56-54 with five minutes remaining.
Canal Winchester did not panic, however, as a great hustle play from Metzler led to a floater in the lane from junior guard Avery Musick which topped off a 6-0 run for the Indians. Extending the lead back to eight points at 62-54 with 3:21 remaining, Canal Winchester looked ready to put Friday's game on ice.
Newark didn't back down, getting as close as six points. A back-breaking three from Canal senior guard Brady Snyder put the final nail in the coffin with 1:30 to go, as the Indians went up 67-58.
Newark struck back 10 seconds later with a three from senior post Keshawn Heard, however the Wildcats did not score again. Running out the clock for its first win over Newark since the Wildcats joined the OCC-Capital, Canal Winchester put the area on notice with a complete game on both ends of the floor.
Showing great toughness, chemistry and resilience, Canal Winchester led for virtually the entire game, as its hot start and clutch play down the stretch put the finishing touches on its biggest win in years.
Sow played an extremely efficient game, leading all scorers with 26 points. Knocking down two threes and finishing at a high level near the rim, the 6-foot-4 junior put his freakishly long wingspan to use, affecting shots at the rim and rebounding everything in his area.
While Sow had a great night with eight rebounds, the fellow junior Metzler was a glass eater, going for 11 points and 15 rebounds. Snatching down 12 rebounds in the first half alone, Metzler helped create plenty of second chance opportunities in a primetime matchup with the senior Heard.
Coming into Friday as Canal's leading scorer, Snyder played a great game as the team's facilitator. Getting the Indians going early with his scoring, Snyder rounded out his performance by adding 10 assists to his 12 points. Knocking down two threes and showing a tight handle, Snyder was a tough cover all night long and kept the Indians under control when it seemed as if Newark was poised to make a run.
Musick played well in a secondary role, adding 10 points on mainly inside scores.
Newark received a great game from junior guard Bobby Crenshaw, who continued his breakout season with 17 points and nine rebounds. The 6-foot guard Crenshaw has elite speed in the open floor in addition to an extremely quick first step that he used to get to the rim at will.
Heard added 13 points, 11 of which in the second half. Ballinger pitched in 12 points and three steals, while sophomore Kade Bafford added nine points and four assists. Being held to two points, junior wing Jaden Woods finished with seven points and two blocks.
Struggling to knock down outside shots and penetrate Canal's defense in the half court, Newark was unable to take control of Friday's game. With Canal dominating the glass and getting its fair share of second-chance points, Newark could not overcome the early 15-point deficit that ultimately decided the game.
With the win, Canal Winchester remains unbeaten at 11-0 and will look to keep rolling on Saturday at home against Worthington Kilbourne.
For Newark, the Wildcats will not return to the floor for another week, where it will head to New Albany on Jan. 18.