By John Bombatch
XENIA — The host Yellow Springs Bulldogs exploded for 33 points in the fourth quarter to blowout Xenia Christian, 71-44, Tuesday night in a Metro Buckeye Conference battle.
The game stayed relatively close until that final eight minutes of play. The two teams were tied after one quarter, the Ambassadors held a 25-22 lead at the break, and Yellow Springs was up by three points (38-35) after three periods of play.
Then the Bulldogs seemed to do everything right.
That fourth quarter saw Yellow Springs’ defense tighten up, preventing Xenia Christian from converting as many inside shots, or rebounding when they missed. The Ambassadors ended up turning the ball over just as many times as they put points on the scoreboard — nine times — in the quarter.
Meanwhile, Yellow Springs was hitting 11 of its 19 shots from the floor, and converting 7-of-10 free-throw opportunities to pull away. The Bulldogs had one turnover in the quarter as well.
“We talked a little bit at halftime about working to make things a little bit more difficult for them on the defensive end, and we wanted to use our defense to generate more offense,” Yellow Springs coach Steve Grasso explained. “They were hitting some pull-up jumpers off of some ball screens, and that’s a credit to (Ashton Burke) for hitting them. That’s a tough shot to make. The 17-foot shot is not a shot that a lot of people shoot regularly, so that’s a credit to him. We just had to adjust to that.”
Burke drained six jumpers in the first half for 12 points at halftime, but Yellow Springs’ defense limited him to two converted jump shots (and five free throws) in the second half. Burke led the Ambassadors with 21 points, the only Xenia Christian player to finish in double-figure scoring.
Meanwhile, Yellow Springs enjoyed a balanced scoring attack.
Isaiah Taylor led the way with a 23-point night, 15 of which came in the second half, and a dozen of those points came during the fourth-quarter run. He’s not only strong in scoring from inside the paint, but he has a nice outside shooting touch as well, hitting two 3-pointers.
Devon Perry finished with a dozen points of his own, Tony Marinelli added 11 and Kaner Butler finished with 10. Butler was given a technical for hanging on the rim after the game’s lone dunk.
Grasso wanted to be sure that Devon Perry’s defensive work got some recognition.
“He’s a hustler. He guards the other team’s best player. He rebounds. He’s always willing to share the ball with his teammates, and he’s a very good shooter as well. He was our leading scorer up until tonight, but that’s something that he’s totally uninterested in. He’s a selfless young man, and that’s what we’re all about here,” Grasso said.
Xenia Christian coach Brad Newsome said rebounding, or the lack of it, cost his team in that fourth quarter.
“Rebounding and getting the ball inside, that creates some recovery opportunities. And then when they’re able to kick it out and have a couple of their kids (Taylor and Marinelli) hit some threes … that’s tough,” Newsome said. “The team is getting better with each game, and Ashton’s game is improving right along with that. For a group of freshmen and sophomores, we aren’t doing too bad.”
Yellow Springs improves to 3-0 overall, 2-0 and in first place in the MBC. They’ll play at Miami Valley for another conference battle on Friday.
Xenia Christian is now 0-4, 0-2 MBC and in last place in the conference. The improving Ambassadors host Troy Christian on Friday.