LEES CREEK — East Clinton’s four-game winning streak ended Saturday night as the Astros were defeated by visiting Whiteoak, 60-53, in non-league boys basketball action.
The Wildcats improved to 6-6 on the season, while the Astros slipped to 6-4.
Whiteoak jumped out to a 17-11 first quarter lead, then extended the lead to 29-16 at halftime. As has been the case most of the season, the Astros came back strong in the second half, outscoring the Wildcats 37-31, but this time East Clinton could not stage the fourth quarter comeback it needed.
EC coach Phil Shori felt his team could not adapt to Whiteoak’s zone defense in the early going, and a five-minute drought in the second quarter put them in a big hole.
“It’s the first time we have faced that type of zone and we could not attack it. Defensively, we could not find a way to stop them. They shot it very well (six treys),” Shori said. “We did not execute very well. We were probably tired from the tough game against Bethel-Tate and playing three games in five days can take its toll. We just don’t have a very deep bench.”
What was pleasing to Shori was the strong comeback in the second half after trailing by 16 points.
“There’s no quit in these kids and I just love them for that. We just kept fighting and got it down to six (59-53 with 12.9 seconds to play),” he said.
For the Wildcats, coach Ryan Barnett knew it would be tough, after facing Highland County rival Leesburg Fairfield on Friday.
“My kids really played strong defensively and this was a good win for us,” Barnett said.
Whiteoak made the most of its free throw opportunities, converting 16 of 22 attempts, including 10 of 12 in the final period.
“We nailed it at the free throw line and had to make them with East Clinton making the strong comeback,” said Barnett.
Brad Ashbaugh led Whiteoak with 19 points, Luken Roades followed with 15, and Landon Barnett added 13.
For the Astros, Branson Smith had 26 points, including 19 in the second half. That left Smith 24 points away from reaching 1,000 points in his career.
“He simply competes 24-7, ” Shori noted. “Branson wants the ball and is determined to score.”
Landon Runyon added 12 points, with Dakota Collom and Quinten Tolle combining for 13 points.
Whiteoak 60 East Clinton 53
(60) WHITE OAK (2fg-3fg-ft-tp) Ashbaugh 4-3-2-19, Bailey 2-0-4-8, Emery 0-0-0-0, Hughes 1-0-2-4, Barnett 3-1-5-13, Roades 3-2-3-15, Walker 0-0-0-0. TOTALS 13-6-16-60
(53) EAST CLINTON (2fg-3fg-ft-tp) B. Smith 9-1-5-26, Collom 2-1-0-5, J. Smith 0-0-0-0, Runyon 0-4-0-12, Tolle 3-0-0-6, Arnold 0-0-2-2, Norman 0-0-0-0. TOTALS 14-6-7-53.
Bill Liermann covers college and high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @lierjet.