NAPOLEON – The heavily favored Archbold Bluestreaks had their hands full in the District Semi-final encounter with the Elmwood Royals. The Bluestreaks, who trailed by 10 points with 5:05 left in the third quarter, went on a 36-17 run from that point forward to survive and advance with a 65-56 hard fought victory over the Royals.
Bryce Williams put Archbold on the board at the 7:42 mark of the opening period on a drive to the basket. However, Elmwood went on a 7-0 run before Caleb Wooley knocked down two free throws for the Streaks, then scored a layup off a nice feed from Eli Miller to make the score 7-6 in favor of the Royals. Elmwood made a foul shot, and Rigo Ramos scored off an assist from Williams to close the quarter with the scored knotted at 8 points.
The Royals were able to control the tempo and keep the Archbold offense in check for the initial quarter. The trend continued on into the second stanza. Elmwood got two buckets from Childress to open the quarter, then Ramos answered for Archbold at the 5:53 mark when he cashed in after receiving another assist from Williams. Williams hit a foul line jumper to tie the score at 12 with 4:13 to play. Childress responded again, this time from behind the arc to put Elmwood back up by three, 15-12.
Williams got two more on a drive to the rim only to see the Royals go on another run, this time the 8-0 variety to extend the lead to 23-14. Miller stopped the bleeding with a trey from the left wing with 1:30 remaining before intermission. Nate Uzelac closed out the first half scoring to push the lead to 25-17 at halftime.
The first half saw Archbold go 7-20 from the field for 35%, while Elmwood hit on 9-19 shots for 47%, including 4 baskets from behind the arc.
The third quarter began with Archbold picking up the defensive intensity. Williams added to baskets, the second off a steal for a layup to cut the lead to four points and prompting a time out request from Elmwood Coach Ty Traxler just 27 seconds into the period.
The Royals responded with a bucket, but Toby Walker countered with a triple from the right baseline. The two teams exchanged baskets, then Curtis completed a conventional three point play to put Elmwood up by six, 32-26 with still 6:30 left in the quarter. Walker drilled his second three in less than a minute apart to cut the lead to three points, only to see Uzelac counter for the Royals. This led to 7 straight points for Elmwood to give them their first double digit advantage of the contest, 39-29, with 5:05 left in the period.
The last basket led to a timeout request from Archbold Coach Doug Krauss. The veteran mentor must have provided some words of wisdom as Archbold turned up the heat defensively. From that point the Streaks went on a 9-4 run to end the quarter, highlighted by a steal by Ramos that led to a thunderous two-hand slam with 1:25 left in the quarter. Krauss reflected on the significance of the play. “The steal that Rigo got that led to a dunk was a big play for us. That motivated and energized us.”
The period closed with a bucket by Childress at the buzzer as the Royals were able to elude the Archbold press and led 43-38.
Still trailing by five as the fourth quarter began, Williams drilled a three from the top of the key to cut the deficit to just two points with 7:30 left. The Archbold press was starting to wreak havoc on the Royals as they committed two turnovers to start the period. The second led to another triple by Williams. The shot hit the rim softly, bounced high above the backboard, then down through the net giving the Streaks their first lead since the first bucket of the game, 44-43.
Elmwood became the frontrunner once again after Duvall scored on a jumper. Miller put Archbold back on top with driving left handed layup. An offensive rebound and stick back by Childress gave the Royals a one point lead, their final one of the contest, 47-46, with 6:10 left.
Miller scored on a nifty spin move in the lane, was fouled in the act, and converted the old fashioned three to give Archbold the advantage once again, 49-47. For one of the few times, Elmwood broke the press leading to a fast break layup by Childress to tie the game at 49 all.
Another layup by Miller gave the Streaks the lead for good with just under five minutes remaining. His basket was the first of a 5-0 run for Archbold. The other three points came from a triple from the right baseline from Kaiden Bedsole to make the score 54-49 with 4:10 left.
Williams added another basket and Uzelac countered for the Royals. With 2:10 left, Ramos and Miller took over scoring the final nine points for the Bluestreaks, while Elmwood added just 3 more in the final 1:30. Coach Krauss spoke about Miller’s influence on the game’s outcome. “Eli Miller made some good decisions, went to the rack well and finished. He’s golden for us, he makes us go. You look at his offense, but he does a great job defensively too. He comes out and guards.”
As the buzzer sounded Archbold had advanced to the District final with a 65-56 victory over the upset minded Royals. The Bluestreaks put the game out of reach by outscoring Elmwood 36-17 over the final 8 minutes.
The second half surge was triggered by the intense pressure defense, both full and half court, employed by Archbold. This strategy led to 10 turnovers by the Royals in the final 16 minutes. Many of the miscues led to easy baskets for the Bluestreaks. Conversely Archbold took very good care of the round ball committing just 6 turnovers for the contest. Krauss broke the game down in 16 minute stretches. “It was not easy. Credit to Elmwood. They took is out of things we wanted to run in the first half. We just came out stagnant. We needed to pick up the pace in the second half and we did. Full court pressure and rebounding improved. It’s funny how you when you play with a sense of urgency you play a little better. We did that in the second half. We talked at halftime that we had 16 minutes out of the way and that wasn’t a good 16 for us. We are better than that. We came out the second 16 minutes and did what we had to do. We moved the ball well, we got after them defensively, they turned the ball over a few times, and we rebounded better, took better shots, just the whole nine yards.”
Both teams shot the ball very well and were an identical 23-45 from the field for 51%, as well as each collecting 25 boards. Archbold won the game from the foul line where they converted 13-22 freebies, while Elmwood made only 8 trips to the charity stripe making good on 5 tries.
Once again Bryce Williams led Archbold with 20 points, including two triples and 7 rebounds. Eli Miller added 16 points with one trifecta, and went 7-9 from the charity stripe. Rigo Ramos joined the duo in double figures dropping in 13 points and 8 boards. Toby Walker hit back to back three’s for 6 points, along with Kaiden Bledsoe who provided solid defense. Caleb Wooley closed out the scoring for the Bluestreaks with 4 points.
Jonah Childress paced the Royals with a game high 22 points, while Nate Uzelac had 13. Elmwood’s leading scorer, Tayte Lentz, who came into the contest averaging 21 points were game was held to just to free throws by the Archbold defense. Coach Krauss gave special credit to the two that guarded Lentz and held him in check. “The credit goes to Kaiden Bedsole and Toby Walker. We gave up some inches to him, but those two, with a little help from their teammates, did a great job.”
With the win Archbold moved to 19-5 overall and advanced to the District final where they played Van Buren on Saturday, March 11th, with a trip to Regionals at stake.
SCORING BY QUARTER:
Archbold – 8 9 21 27 – 65
Elmwood – 8 17 18 13 – 56
Kent Hutchison may be reached at email@example.com