REYNOLDSBURG — Looking to snap what would be their only losing streak of the regular season, the Raiders returned home for a matchup against a four-loss Bishop Hartley team in what would be the final regular season home game for seniors Arrington Dulin, Reece Strohm, KJ Walker, and JJ Cooper (pictured above from left to right).
With the seniors leading the way, the Raiders got off to a fast start offensively and never looked back in what would actually be their best defensive performance of the season.
The aforementioned seniors scored the first 10 points of the game for the Raiders (15-6), and Strohm hit four three-pointers in the first half alone. They would build a 17-point lead over the Hawks (16-5) in the 4th quarter, and patient basketball from the point on led the Raiders to a 46-33 victory on Senior Night.
The Raiders, who have allowed an average of 48.9 PPG through 21 regular season games, allowed their fewest points in a game this season and sent the seniors off with a victory in their final regular season home game. Even more fitting, Strohm scored the game’s final basket with under a minute left to lead the Raiders with 14 points.
“I’ve grown up [with fellow seniors Dulin, Walker, and Cooper] and played basketball pretty much every year with them since like 4th or 5th grade, so it means a lot to have them on the court with me,” Strohm said after the win. “It was good to bounce back and for us to go out like that on our last regular season home game.”
Bishop Hartley’s only lead of the game came after quickly scoring the game’s first basket. But Strohm hit two three-pointers in a row within a minute of each other, while Cooper quickly scored from under the basket to cap an 8-0 run for the Raiders in the 1st quarter to force a Hawks timeout. Cooper would quickly score again to give the seniors the first 10 points of the game, while junior forward Tre Williams had two series of baskets and ones to propel the Raiders to a 16-8 lead after the opening quarter. In an otherwise relatively even 2nd quarter, where remaining seniors Dulin and Walker got on the board with baskets, Strohm hit his third and fourth baskets of the game from three-point land. A last-second three by Bishop Hartley cut what would have been a double-digit lead to a 26-17 halftime lead for the Raiders, with the seniors combining for 20 of the Raiders’ 26 points.
Walker then hit a three-pointer of his own to open the 3rd quarter, while sophomore forward Ben Fort electrified the home crowd with a transition dunk and a quick three-pointer to give the Raiders a 34-19 lead with 5:25 left in the 3rd. Cooper and Williams added baskets of their own as the Raiders took a 38-25 lead into the final quarter.
The Hawks quickly opened the 4th quarter with a basket, but the Raiders slowed the game down from there in order to stall out the game clock. The Raiders made the most of two very long possessions of 2:09 and 1:02, as each ended with a three-pointer by junior guard Jamiel Goliday to give the Raiders a 44-27 lead with 4:49 left. The Hawks would score the next six points, most coming off intercepted passes from the Raiders while they were passing the ball to each other away from the Hawks in an attempt to run out the clock. But Strohm would score the final basket in his final regular season home game in the last minute, and the Raiders closed the game out from there.
“We had kind of felt like after we had lost a few in a row that we wanted to come back out and re-establish ourselves,” Raiders head coach Scott Davis after the win. “I thought we did a good job defensively and I thought we held up to a very physical Hartley team. We had a nice lead [in the 4th quarter] so then we just wanted to come down and be patient. [The Hawks] were in a half-court zone for the last two minutes, and we were able to play keep away, which was fine. If they weren’t going to take it from us, I was just content with running out those last couple of minutes.”
Seniors would combine for 25 of the Raiders’ 46 points on the night, and Coach Davis had a message for them after the game.
“You can’t ask for four better young men,” Davis went on to say of his four seniors. “Even if you take basketball out of the equation, they are just four really great men that represent themselves, their families, this school district, and as well as this basketball program in the manner that you want out of student athletes. To get a win for them on their last regular season home game was a good way to send them out and to conclude their career.”
The Raiders actually have at least one more home game to play, as the postseason is rapidly approaching. Although the Raiders are seeded 10th out of 47 teams in the 2017 Central Ohio District Tournament and are eyeing a deep playoff run, they are definitely focusing on Friday’s regular season finale at Lancaster looking to build momentum going into the playoffs.
“We’re not looking forward to the tournament right now; we’re looking forward to Lancaster and preparation for that,” Strohm said.
OTHER MESSAGES FOR OUR SENIORS:
“This is a special group of seniors that we will miss around here and that I will always remember fondly. I was working at the Junior High level when they were having great success as young kids in the 7th and 8th grade. I sort of moved up to the High School along with them, so the Class of 2017 is special to me for that reason. They were a group that the program was excited about seeing develop on the court, and they have not disappointed. What’s even better though is that, off the court, the four of them are all quality young men and students first. Their parents and families are supportive and great to deal with, and will be missed as well. This is truly a great senior class that we honored on Senior Night, and I am proud to call them Raiders!”
-Jacob Perkins, Reynoldsburg High School Athletic Director
“It has been a true privilege getting to know these four young men and watch them develop on and off the court over in the two years I have known them. Whether I see them in between classes during the school day, run into them briefly during practice, watch them play at home or on the road, or interact with them both before and after Raider Basketball games, they have always represented Reynoldsburg with class, integrity, and have been fantastic role models throughout our entire community. On top of this, they are some of the most studious and hardest working kids inside of the classroom I have ever had the privilege of knowing, and I will always remember that about the Class of 2017. They have thus truly set the bar high for future student athletes to follow in their footsteps, and this to me is so much bigger than basketball. Thank you so much for everything, seniors!”
-James Olivola, Encore Academy Math Teacher, Raider Basketball Play-by-Play and Beat Writer
NEXT UP + PLAYOFF PICTURE:
The Raiders (15-6, 4-5) look to close out their regular season with a win at Lancaster to even out their OCC-Ohio division record. The Raiders beat the Gales 42-40 at home on Jan. 20th. Tip at the Gales is on Friday 2/17 at 7:30pm.
The 10th-seeded Raiders will play their playoff opener at home against 32nd-seeded Olentangy Orange. Tip against the Pioneers is on Saturday 2/25 at 1:00pm. The winner of this game will play their second-round game at home against 33rd-seeded Walnut Ridge on Friday 3/3 at 7:00pm. The Raiders beat the Scots 52-36 at home in their second game of the season on Dec. 5th.
Follow @ReynoldsburgBB on Twitter for play-by-play updates during game days and all things pertaining to Reynoldsburg Raiders boys basketball.