By Brad Morris
Braylen Baker helped administer the cure to what ailed the Logan Elm offense on Saturday during the first half.
“We knew we had to come out and pick it up, because we were too static on offense and stood around too much during the first half,” Baker said. “We picked up the energy level and I got a hot hand shooting the basketball there in the third quarter.”
Baker knocked down five of the six shots he attempted and scored 14 points during the third quarter to help the Braves rally from a one-point halftime deficit and defeat visiting Hamilton Township 54-49 in a Mid-State League Buckeye Division game.
Baker scored 19 of his game-high 27 points in the second half on 11 of 19 (57.9 percent) shooting. Nemiah Waugh followed with 20 points and nine rebounds, and Drew Tomlinson had five points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The Braves entered the second half after shooting an anemic 25 percent (6 of 24) from the field and falling behind by as many as eight points during the second quarter.
Baker picked up his third foul with 30.6 seconds left in the first quarter and Logan Elm coach Doug Stiverson was forced to reinsert his senior wing with 4:38 left before halftime with the Braves trailing 16-8.
“We got off to a slow start on offense during the first half. We didn’t have much of a rhythm on offense and really didn’t get many good looks at the basket,” Stiverson said. “We were struggling there during the second quarter, so we had to bring Braylen back into the game.
“We played some zone to help him out with his foul trouble and sometimes you have to trust an experienced player like Braylen to know the situation and play smart defense. That’s what he did.”
Logan Elm finished the first half on a 9-2 run, powered in part by two baskets from Baker and three free throws courtesy of Waugh, to trail just 18-17 entering halftime.
The Braves (2-1, 1-1) opened the second half on a 16-6 run that featured a trio of three-pointers and 11 points from Baker and a pair of baskets by Tomlinson to take a 33-24 lead.
“Braylen got us going and really stepped up as a senior leader to knock down shots and help give our other guys some confidence,” Stiverson said. “Drew also had a couple of nice baskets during that run and stepped up and rebounded the basketball well.
“Drew does a lot of little things that don’t show up in the statistics, like diving after loose basketballs and being a very solid defender.”
Hamilton Township (0-3, 0-2) trimmed its deficit down to one possession, but a three-pointer from the right wing by Baker sent the Braves into the fourth quarter with a 36-30 lead.
“My teammates did a nice job of screening for me and getting me the basketball, and I was able to knock down some shots and really help get us going,” Baker said.
The two teams combined for 37 points in an entertaining fourth quarter where the Braves led by two to three possessions for most of the period.
A three-pointer by Joran Woodard allowed the Rangers to close their deficit to 52-49 with 1:20 remaining.
Baker and Waugh each split a pair of free throws in the closing 80 seconds and a key traveling call against the Rangers with 31 seconds remaining allowed the Braves to close out their first league win of the season.
Waugh led the Braves in the fourth quarter with 12 points and Baker chipped in five.
“Nemiah did a nice job of driving to the basket, hitting some tough layups in traffic and also getting to the line,” Stiverson said.
Jovan McBride scored 11 points, Anthony McBride tallied nine, and Laon Harrison-Reid and Woodard accounted for eight apiece to lead the Rangers.
Hamilton Township finished the game with 18 turnovers compared to 12 for Logan Elm. The Rangers held a 29-25 advantage on the glass.
Logan Elm opened the season with three of its projected top seven players out with injuries. Sophomore guard Gage Arnett returned to the floor on Saturday for his first action of the season, but the Braves will still likely be without the services of junior forward Brody Sabine until after the new year and senior guard Tanner Holbert until mid-January.
“It’s been tough with the injuries that we have, but we have to focus on playing really good defense and using that to help us win these close games,” Baker said.
The Braves continue league play on Friday when they travel to Circleville (1-1).
Logan Elm 54,
Hamilton Township 49
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Anthony McBride 4-0-9, Brady Holt 2-0-5, Joran Woodard 2-2-8, Jovan McBride 3-5-11, Trent Renz 2-0-4, Jordan Cain 2-0-4, Laon Harris-Reid 4-0-8. Three-point goals — Anthony McBride, Brady Holt, Joran Woodard (2). Total — 19-45 7-7 49.
LOGAN ELM — Drew Tomlinson 2-1-5, Gage Arnett 1-0-2, Braylen Baker 11-1-27, Nemiah Waugh 5-10-20. Three-point goals — Braylen Baker (4). Total — 19-42 12-22 54.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
Hamilton Twp. 6 12 12 19 49
Logan Elm 6 11 19 18 54