By Brad Morris
Logan Elm used its defense to control the tempo of a non-league game on Saturday and turned in a workmanlike 41-36 win over visiting Westfall.
The Braves checked guards Casey Cline and Brody Clark to a combined nine points, all scored in the fourth quarter, after the duo had combined for 41 points in the Mustangs’ 67-41 win three days earlier over Amanda-Clearcreek.
“Our defense set the tone for the whole night, especially with controlling the tempo of the game and not allowing Westfall to get out in its transition offense,” Logan Elm coach Doug Stiverson said. “We played good team defense, had good awareness and our guys did a good job of limiting what Westfall could do.
“Most of the game was played 5-on-5 in the half-court, which is exactly what we wanted.”
The Braves are working to forge a new identity on offense with senior guard Tanner Holbert, who was one of the top scorers in the Southeast District last year averaging 20.3 points, sidelined until mid-January with an injury from football.
Braylen Baker, a 6-1 senior wing, led the way with a game-high 18 points and also contributed five rebounds and three assists. Nemiah Waugh, a six-foot sophomore guard, accounted for 12 points and five rebounds.
“We are going to have it in their hands a lot, especially here early on in the season,” Stiverson said of the tandem. “Braylen had a fantastic game on both ends of the floor. He did a nice job of knocking down a few threes, getting to the basket and drawing fouls and he also created some opportunities for his teammates. Nemiah also did a nice job of knocking down shots and getting to the basket.”
While the Braves largely held Cline and Clark in check, the Mustangs were able to use a three-inch height advantage in the post and turn to their 6-4 combination of Henry Barnes, Seth Gifford and Jeremiah Layton for a combined 20 points.
“Logan Elm is one of the best defensive teams that we’ll face all season and they did a nice job of controlling the tempo of the game,” Westfall coach Christian Meister said. “We knew coming into the game that we had a height advantage, and I was really pleased with the way Seth and especially Henry and Jeremiah battled, competed and performed around the basket.
“This is a game we obviously wanted to win, but we can learn some things from this experience that is going to help us out long-term. Most of the games that we’ll play this season, we’ll be able to get both our perimeter and inside game working together.”
The Mustangs opened the second half on an 8-0 run, powered by two baskets apiece by Gifford and senior point guard Blaec Bugher, to take their second and final lead of the night at 19-18.
Logan Elm responded with a 12-2 run to close the quarter.
The Braves grabbed the lead right back when Waugh fed Gavin Griffey for a layup and Baker buried a three off a pass from Carson Summers on the next trip down the floor.
Baker and Griffey contributed four points apiece during the run that Alden Williams capped with a tough putback basket that sent the Braves into the fourth quarter with a 30-21 advantage.
“We have some seniors who have been through the battles, so they did a nice job of keeping their composure when Westfall made that run and came back with one of their own,” Stiverson said. “Westfall had to start focusing on Braylen and Nemiah and that opened up some opportunities for Gavin, Drew Tomlinson and then Alden Williams fought for some rebounds and had a nice stick back.”
Westfall cut its deficit down to a basket on three separate occasions in the final period, including the final time on a layup by Bugher that made it 38-36 with 27 seconds remaining.
Baker drained a pair of clutch free throws to put the Braves back ahead by four points. The Braves then held the Mustangs to a missed layup and tip on the other end.
Griffey split a pair of free throws to make the final 41-36.
Both teams struggled from the free throw line. Westfall was 15 of 35 (42.9 percent) from the field and 2 of 6 (33.3 percent) at the charity stripe, while Logan Elm was 14 of 36 (38.9 percent) shooting and 8 of 17 (47.1 percent) at the line, including hitting just 5 of 11 (45.5 percent) attempts in the fourth quarter.
“It was the season-opener and we saw some things that we want to work on and improve, and obviously free throw shooting is one of those things,” Stiverson said.
The Mustangs had a 25-18 advantage on the glass and committed 11 turnovers compared to six by the Braves.
Layton paced the Mustangs with eight points and also had six rebounds, Bugher contributed seven points, and Gifford, Barnes and Cline added six points apiece.
Meister was pleased with the defensive effort his team turned in and wants to build on it next weekend, when the Mustangs (1-1) open Scioto Valley Conference play on Friday at Adena and then travel to Lynchburg-Clay on Saturday for a non-conference game.
“We’ve held our first two opponents to 41 points and if we can continue to do that then I have a feeling that we can win quite a few games,” he said. “Our guys are doing a nice job of competing on the defensive end, playing together and with a lot of energy.
“Our defense has improved a lot, but we still have a few things to work on like learning to win and being consistent. Logan Elm’s kids grew up watching teams either win a league or district championship, while our program has struggled in recent seasons. We are still learning how to have success and how to handle it on a consistent basis.”
The Braves (1-0) open Mid-State League Buckeye Division play on Tuesday at Teays Valley.
Logan Elm 41,
WESTFALL — Brody Clark 1-0-3, Casey Cline 2-0-6, Blaec Bugher 3-1-7, Henry Barnes 2-2-6, Seth Gifford 3-0-6, Jeremiah Layton 4-0-8. Three-point goals — Casey Cline (2) and Brody Clark. Total — 15-35 2-6 36.
LOGAN ELM — Gavin Griffey 2-1-5, Drew Tomlinson 2-0-4, Braylen Baker 5-5-18, Alden Williams 1-0-2, Nemiah Waugh 4-2-12. Three-point goals — Braylen Baker (3), Nemiah Waugh (2). Total — 14-36 8-17 41.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Westfall 6 5 10 15 36
Logan Elm 13 5 12 11 41