The Homer Central boys’ basketball team suffered a big blow in the opening minute of Tuesday’s game against visiting Westhill, but its effects took much more time to be felt.
Senior swingman Kyle Hess went down with an ankle injury on his first drive to the basket and was out for the game in the first 56 seconds. Westhill overcame a slow start and prevailed 53-44 in a battle between the top two teams in the OHSL Liberty American Division. The Warriors improve to 6-0 in the division and 9-1 overall. The Trojans drop to 4-2 in the division and 6-3 overall.
Sean Dadey powered the Westhill offense with 25 points, but it was his defensive presence to hold Trojan sharpshooter Bryant Quinlan scoreless in the second half that was the most notable.
“They (Homer) are one of our better league teams,” Dadey said. “They play a long, active zone and we struggled with it at first. We finally figured it out, but they are a good team. He (Quinlan) got hot at the start, but we made some quick changes. I did the best I could because he is a great player. I just dug down and stopped him.”
“Sean was on him the whole game,” Westhill coach Kevin King said. “We were looking to challenge Sean defensively. He is capable of being a good defender. Quinlan is a good player and I was very happy with Sean’s defense tonight.”
“It was deflating to start a big game and lose our third-leading scorer,” Homer coach Sean Malone said. Contacted this morning, Malone said the injury might be season-ending for Hess.
While Hess went down in the opening minute, Homer rode Quinlan’s hot hand to a 16-10 lead. Quinlan delivered two 3-pointers and had 10 of the Trojans’ points as his team led 14-5 with 2:37 left in the first quarter.
Stephen Walter kept the Trojans going in the second quarter with six of his eight points, including a lay-in with 2:16 left in the half to give Homer a 25-18 advantage. Tucker O’Donnell added two free throws in his return to action from a football injury to push the Trojans on top 27-18. The Trojans gave up four points in the final 20 seconds, but still enjoyed a 27-22 lead at the halftime break. Quinlan had 13 points, but wouldn’t score in the second half.
It was a different Westhill team that stepped on the floor to start the third quarter.
“We had to do a better job attacking their zone, which we did,” King said. “The guys got down a little bit, but we played better defense. Homer is a really good team. It was just a matter of someone making some shots. This game really could have gone either way. I’m happy we fought back.”
“Casey had three fouls so he was a little timid,” Malone said. “They just got into us a bit more in the second half. Number 10 (Dadey) was in (Quinlan’s) face. We knew Dadey would do that at some point. We were stale with our ball movement.”
Holden Carroll scored two in the paint and Zechariah Brown added a 3-pointer and the game was tied 27-27 with 5:28 left in the third quarter. O’Donnell got two points inside for a 29-27 Homer lead before Dadey delivered a trey from the corner for the first Westhill lead at 30-29. The game was tied three more times before the Warriors closed out the quarter with a 7-2 run to take a 42-37 lead in the fourth.
With Westhill up 44-37, Homer got a free throw, a driving lay-up by O’Donnell and a another drive to the basket by Hayes to close to within 44- 22 with 3:45 to play. Charlie Bolesh stuck a dagger in the Trojans’ heart with a 3-pointer with 3:07 to go. The Warriors led 47-22 and did enough to close out the victory.
“We needed a little more production from a few areas,” Malone said. “Tucker got us a big 11 points off the bench. He had a big three to get us close. Our emotions got the best of us at times. We made a lot of mental mistakes and didn’t get the ball inside to Stephen in the second half.”
Outside of Dadey, Brown had 12 points, but he and Carroll kept Walter from scoring inside during the second half. That and Dadey’s shutdown of Quinlan proved to be crucial, along with losing Hess to the ankle injury.
“Kyle does score points, but he does so much more,” Malone said. “He is good banging inside for rebounds and he will get some steals for us every game.”
Homer will return to OHSL Liberty Division action Friday, hosting Hannibal with a 5 p.m. JV start time.
The Homer JVs found themselves on the short end of a 57-39 decision to Westhill Tuesday.
The Warriors grabbed a 7-0 lead and the Trojans (3-5 overall) never got out of that hole. Homer stayed close, trailing 17-10 after the opening quarter and 29-20 at halftime. The Trojans were still within 10 points at 42-32 after three quarter before Westhill opened up the gap in the final eight minutes.
Jon Barnes led Homer with nine points. Dylan Yacavone added seven points and Andrew VanPatten netted six points.
Jack Mooney paced Westhill with 19 points. Phillip Bogan added 14 points and Garvin Kinney had 11 points.