BRIDGETOWN, Ohio -- Moeller basketball players were standing around on offense.
The right cuts weren’t there. The right pass wasn’t there. Certainly, the right shots weren’t there as the unbeaten Crusaders tried to tread water throughout a frustrating first half at Oak Hills.
They trailed by as many as seven points in the first half because there was just no movement in an offense that usually excels moving the ball.
“Now their defense was making us do that,” Moeller coach Carl Kremer said.
So, the Crusaders started emphasizing hard cuts and the shots started falling in the second half as Moeller (6-0) rallied for a 52-43 win over the Highlanders (4-1) Friday night at Oak Hills.
“It was a little rough the first quarter, but they’re all good players,” Moeller senior guard Keegan McDowell said.
“Once we got those hard cuts going, we just started finding each other and the shots started going in.”
Moeller never led in the first half. Oak Hills took an early 5-0 lead and led 11-5 after the first quarter. The Crusaders closed to within a point, 13-12, after opening the second quarter on a 7-2 run, but trailed 23-20 at halftime and 32-31 through three quarters.
“The first half, we had a hard time moving,” Kremer said. “They just did a good job guarding the lane and the whole second half our guys cut harder, spaced the floor better and were a little more patient. That eventually led to some cuts and we made a few shots. That’s always a part of it.”
Moeller opened the second half on a 9-0 run, taking its first lead of the game on a drive to the basket by senior guard Caleb Canter. The Crusaders pushed the lead to 29-23 before Oak Hills senior guard Ryan Batte scored the next nine points. McDowell ended the third with a drive the length of the floor to make it a 32-31 Oak Hills advantage heading into the final period.
“He’s a heck of a player,” McDowell said of Batte. “It took our whole team to stop him. It was five guys helping out and he did a great job. He’s a great player.”
Junior guard Isaiah Payton gave the Crusaders the lead for good with a 3-pointer early in the fourth and McDowell followed with a traditional 3-point play and a 37-32 Moeller lead. Oak Hills never got closer than three points the rest of the way.
McDowell, the Crusaders’ leading scorer with more than 15 points per game, led Moeller with 19 Friday. Payton and sophomore guard Miles McBride each added 10 points.
“It really takes everyone,” McDowell said.
McDowell was 6-for-12 from the field and made 6 of 7 free throws, including 3 of 4 in the final minute to seal the win.
“He’s a competitive kid,” Kremer said. “He’s fighting some injuries and won’t let those keep him down. Our team looks to him. He’s going to be a warrior and he’s not afraid of the moment. Just like Batte for them.”
Batte led all scorers with 20 points for Oak Hills. He scored all nine Highlanders points in the third quarter and 7 of 11 fourth-quarter points for Oak Hills.
“When they needed it, they went to him,” Kremer said. “To be honest, I thought we did a pretty god job guarding him. He’s really a special high school player. And their team … they’re so well coached. Their kids are tough. We feel very fortunate to come in and beat a team that’s coached like this.”
Moeller will head to The Villages, Florida, for a holiday tournament Dec. 28-30. Oak Hills will also close out 2016 in Florida at the Jr. Orange Bowl Classic.
“This is an awesome win going into Christmas break, but this isn’t what we’re shooting for,” McDowell said. “We’re preparing to play in March. That’s what it’s all about.”