RAYLAND - The Buckeye Local Panthers haven't been torching the nets much this season. as they average just 52 points a game.
Their average went up after Wednesday's explosion against Union Local.
The Panthers connected on 31 field goals, including eight treys, and used their pressure to their advantage en route to a 76-67 victory against the Jets (4-8) in a Wednesday evening Buckeye 8 encounter.
The Jets actually jumped on the Panthers early, surging to a 9-point lead in the early going. It was a site all too familiar for Morris.
"I called that time out because we started slowly in the last two games and we just weren't playing aggressive enough," Morris said. "The kids responded really well and played good defense."
The message got across loud and clear as Buckeye got within 13-9 at the end of the first and kept going from there.
The Panthers rang up 50 points in the middle two periods, scoring 25 in each. They scored in a bevy of ways, too. They forced turnovers that led to easy chances, worked against the Jets' zone for good look after good luck and cashed them in.
"We tell the kids that the better defense you play, the more points you're going to score," Morris said. "We got a lot of layups, but it also seems that when you're running in transition, the outside shots come more easily, too."
That they did for the Panthers. Kyle Michalo had the hot hand early. He scored half of his 20 in the first half. Senior point guard Caleb Agnew also had a big 3-pointer that ignited a Panthers' spurt.
Union Local, meanwhile, remained close thanks to talented senior Jacob Bailey, who scored 12 of his 22 points in the first half.
"We let Buckeye's pressure get to us and when we let pressure get to us, we start to wilt a little bit," said UL head coach Vaughn Butler. "I thought we fought some of that off in the second quarter, but the third quarter it hurt us again."
The Panthers (7-6) picked up right where they left off in the third, outscoring the Jets, 25-19 to take a commanding 59-45 lead into the final chapter.
Michalo remained hot and continually got free, cashing in eight more points in the third. John Rozenek, who torched Union Local in the first meeting, scored six of his 14 in the third.
"We talked about (Michalo) being a good shooter, but we still didn't get out on him," Butler said. "We're just not there yet. We're getting there, but Buckeye is a solid team."
The Panthers' lead swelled to as many as 21 in the fourth before Morris emptied his bench, which allowed the Jets to make a final scoring run.
All told, four Panthers reached double figures. Michalo and Rozenek led the way. Talented junior Brennan Czuchran went for 13 points.
"We were very balanced, which we've had all year, but we've really not shot the ball this well," Morris said. "We've won six of eight and in that period, we've given up very few points. Overall, I was pleased with our defense.
Bailey's production was complemented by Kaleb McDiffit's 10 points. Colton McKivitz came off the bench to score nine. Collin Jones added eight.
Both teams are in action Friday. Union Local plays host to Harrison Central, while Buckeye welcomes Indian Creek.
Buckeye Local 76, Union Local 67
Union Local 13 13 19 23 - 67
Buckeye Local 9 25 25 17 - 76
UNION LOCAL: McDiffit 5, 0-0 10; Tipton 3, 1-1 7; Dunfee 1, 1-2 4; Jones 4, 0-0 8; Porter 2, 1-2 7; McKivitz 3, 3-5 9; Bailey 6, 8-8 22; Totals: 24, 14-16 67.
BUCKEYE LOCAL: Marshall 0, 0-0 0; Czuchran 5, 2-2 13; Agnew 3, 0-0 7; Donahue 0, 0-0 0; Borkoski 0, 0-0 0; Williams 2, 0-0 6; Martin 0, 0-0 0; Duncan 5, 0-0 10; Carducci 0, 2-2 2; Rozenek 6, 2-2 14; Michalo 8, 0-0 20; Pyciak 0, 0-0 0; Hamilton 2, 0-0 4; Totals: 31, 6-6 76.
Three-Point Goals: UL - Dunfee, Porter (2), Bailey (2). BL - Czuchran, Agnew, Williams (2), Michalo (4).