By JOHN HOWLEY / sportingpumpkin.com
Isaac Ward hit all 16 of his free throw attempts Tuesday night as he led his Logan Elm teammates to a 71-69 double overtime win against Liberty Union.
Those free throws — eight coming in the overtimes — were part of a career-high 39-point effort for the senior.
“I shoot a lot of free throws. Me and my dad shoot every morning and shoot a lot of free throws so I’m pretty confident going up there,” Ward said.
The night started strong for Ward scoring 16 points as LE (5-0, 4-0) got out to a 25-14 lead in the first quarter.
“I felt pretty good in warmups, so I was going to try to be aggressive coming out like I usually do,” he said. “I was getting to the basket and I was getting to the free throw line to get a rhythm going and my teammates were freeing me up for some shots, so everything was coming together pretty well.”
LE’s lead was 36-29 at halftime and the Lions’ zone defense slowed down the Braves in the second half.
Behind 11 points from Jacob Denney in the third quarter, the Lions (6-5, 4-2) clawed back and even grabbed their first lead of the game before the quarter closed with the score tied at 45-45.
Baskets from Ward and Gabe Chalfin had LE up five a minute into the fourth before the Lions had it tied up again a minute later. The lead changed hands four more times in the quarter with the Lions’ Ty Boggs converting a Logan Elm turnover into a score with 20 seconds left to put his team up 57-55. The Braves worked the ball down to Ward in the corner who stepped in and hit a 15-foot jumper with six seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Chalfin came through with 11 points in the third and fourth quarters to keep LE on pace with their visitors.
“He’s been through the battles,” LE coach Doug Stiverson said. “Gabe stepped up and played with confidence all night. He gave Isaac a little breather there and knocked down some big shots for us when it was a back-and-forth game there in the third and fourth quarters.”
LE’s Braylen Baker got the scoring started in overtime, Jason Sailor hit a free throw and Ward hit four (the final two coming with 14 seconds left) as both teams scored seven in the extra period.
The Braves were the first to score in the second overtime on a basket by Ward 90 seconds in. The next points came at the line as Ward sunk two with 47 seconds left.
Chalfin added a free throw with 24 seconds on the clock to put LE up 69-64.
Denney was able to close the gap to three points with 13 seconds on the clock, but Ward was fouled immediately and made his last two free throws of the night.
LU added a three-pointer from Jacob Berlekemp to finish out the game’s scoring.
“It was a game of a lot of ups and downs,” Stiverson said. “It’s a testament to our guys’ togetherness. We picked each other up when we made some mistakes and kept each other in the game. They kept talking to each other and telling each other to keep going and keep fighting.
“Our young guys came in — Braylen, Tanner (Holbert) and Trace (Smith), too, guarding their bigs. They stepped up later in the game and made it more difficult for them to get some easy ones.”
Tuesday’s effort was the fifth time in his career that Ward has hit for 30 or more points and moved him past Evan Blake (1,140 points) into sixth all-time for Logan Elm boys basketball with 1,145 career points.
“He did a little bit of everything for us,” Stiverson said. “This is a team with great length that we were playing against tonight. He had that look in his eye that he was going to find a way to get it done. And his teammates were looking for him, finding it and getting it to him in spots where he could score, and he knocked down some huge shots for us.”
“Their length on that zone is very tough to play against,” Ward said. “Liberty Union played a great game. They’re one of the best teams in the league and probably one of our biggest tests of the year. But we stuck together through it. We remembered how hard we’ve worked to get to where we are today, and we just kept playing hard.”
Chalfin led the team with seven rebounds to go with his 17-point night.
Denney led the Lions with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Berlekemp had 17 points for LU and Boggs had 12.
While there is still plenty of basketball to be played, Tuesday’s win gives the Braves a two-game edge up in the league standings over the Lions, Bloom-Carroll and Teays Valley.
“One of our biggest goals this year as a team is to win the league,” Ward said. “This is a big step forward for us. I think we’re closer than we ever have been before.”
Next up on the schedule for Logan Elm will be a visit from Fairfield Union (3-5, 2-2) on Thursday. Saturday’s game with Teays Valley (3-5, 3-2) has been postponed.
Logan Elm topped Liberty Union 37-35 in the junior varsity game.
Konnor Starkey led the way with 14 points while Garrett Summers put in 11, Drew Tomlinson and Landon Long each had five and Carsen Summers had two.
Logan Elm 71, Liberty Union 69 2OT
Liberty Union — Jackson Brown 0-4-4, Ty Boggs 5-1-12, Jacob Denney 12-1-25, Jacob Berlekemp 7-0-17, Carson Warner 2-0-5, Jacob Miller 0-1-1, Kalib Ripole 2-1-5. Three-point goals — Boggs, Berlekemp (3), Warner. Total — 23-45 8-14 68.
Logan Elm — Isaac Ward 9-16-39, Braylen Baker 2-0-5, Jason Sailor 2-1-5, Trace Smith 1-0-2, Gabe Chalfin 6-2-17, Tanner Holbert 1-0-3. Three-point goals — Ward (5), Baker, Chalfin (3), Holbert. Total — 21-43 19-22 71.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Liberty Union 14 15 16 12 7 5 69
Logan Elm 25 11 9 12 7 7 71