By CHUCK GREENWOOD
EAST LIVERPOOL - 'Senior Night' is a special night.
Six East Liverpool Potter seniors wrapped the home portion of their basketball careers with a 79-63 win over the arch-rival Beaver Local Beavers Tuesday night at Potter Fieldhouse. This was the final game of a three-game series.
Potter seniors D.J. Austin, Hayden Cunningham, John Rickerd, Zack English, Austin Emmerling and Aaron Long all contributed significantly to the win.
East Liverpool improves to 12-5. Beaver Local is 10-8.
"That may have been one of the best defensive games we have played the entire year," said East Liverpool head coach Nate Conley. "Our defensive intensity was the difference. I was actually able to enjoy watching them play."
Cunningham and Kade Reynolds both came off the bench to lead East Liverpool with 18 points each. Emmerling drained 11 and was a workhorse on the boards. Austin finished with nine points while dishing out numerous assists.
"D.J. stepped up and really disrupted their point guard," said Conley. "He set the tempo for us out front and the rest of the team fed off of D.J. Austin Emmerling had his best game in a long time. I give him credit for never feeling sorry for himself, as he kept on working hard. Tonight, his hard work paid dividends."
Beaver Local's Jared Lyder led all scorers with 22 points. Chase Hilliard and Josh Underwood backed him with 15 each. Chander Cornell chipped in nine.
Buoyed by eight points from Reynolds, East Liverpool led 14-11 after one quarter. The Potters never trailed during the quarter, though there were three ties. Cornell and Underwood tallied four each to keep the Beavers close.
The Potters started to break away midway through the second quarter when they went on an 11-0 run over a 1:19 span. Cunningham netted six, Isaac Davidson three and Austin two during this spree. Bryce McKenzie and Underwood answered with buckets to end the Beavers' drought. Austin Emmerling, Davidson and Cunningham tallied two each to offset a Lyder hoop off of a McKenzie feed. Cunningham scored 11 points during the quarter to pace East Liverpool which led 39-25 at intermission. Lyder bucketed six for the Beavers during the quarter.
"The second quarter was the difference," said Beaver Local head coach Jeremy Christen. "They put pressure on our ballhandlers and got us out of our flow. We were able to correct that at halftime, but by then, it was too late."
East Liverpool started to get fastbreak baskets and open looks during transition in the third quarter. The drives to the hoop not only resulted in baskets, but also caused the Beavers to foul, as both Cornell and Underwood were each saddled with three personals. An Owen Crawford basket at the buzzer off of a Davidson dish gave East Liverpool a 61-41 margin.
"Give Coach Conley credit," said Christen. "He has his team peaking at the right time. They have strong players and they know how to play."
Even though the outcome was pretty certain, Beaver Local continued to battle. Lyder and Hill notched 10 each as the Beavers outscored the Potters 22-18 in the final frame.
"I was very proud of our players," said the Beaver Local coach. "Whether we were down five, or down 20, they kept on playing. I have the utmost respect for our guys and their work ethic."
"I really like Jared Lyder," said the Potter coach in regards to the Beavers' leading scorer. "He doesn't quit. He plays hard from the opening tip until to the final buzzer."
With six Potter seniors, it was impossible for all of them to start. Cunningham solved Conley's dilemma by offering to sit, so that the other five seniors could all start.
"That is so typical of Hayden," said Conley. "He is very unselfish both on and off the court. On the court, he could score a lot more, but he is very conscious of getting his teammates involved in the flow."
The Potters play at Hubbard on Saturday, with the Beavers hosting East Palestine the same night.
The Potters exploded for 39 points in the second half to win the freshmen game 48-29. Zach Gill led East Liverpool with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Robbie Davis scored 12 and nabbed six steals. Logan Dawson handed out nine assists and netted six points. Beaver Local was paced by Zac Boni eight, Brock Reed seven and Josh Smith five.
Paced the by the scoring duo of Zack Adkins 19 and Joey Bickerton 18, East Liverpool won the JV game 59-34. Christian Cooper topped the Beavers with 10.
BEAVER LOCAL: 11-14-16-22-63
EAST LIVERPOOL: 14-25-22-18-79
BEAVER LOCAL SCORING: Chase Hilliard 5-3-15, Jared Lyder 10-0-22, Hayden Grafton 0-0-0, Chandler Cornell 4-1-9, Josh Underwood 7-1-15, Chase Wilcox 0-0-0, Bryce McKenzie 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 27, 5-9; 63.
EAST LIVERPOOL SCORING: Owen Crawford 2-0-4, Isaac Davidson 3-0-7, D.J. Austin 2-5-9, Hayden Cunningham 5-6-18, John Rickerd 1-0-2, Zack English 1-0-2, Kade Reynolds 7-3-18, Austin Emmerling 5-1-11, Aaron Long 3-0-6, Joey Bickerton 0-0-0, Zack Adkins 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 30, 15-20; 79.
Three-point goals: Beaver Local 4 (Hilliard 2, Lyder 2), East Liverpool 4 (Cunningham 2, Davidson, Reynolds).