NEW ALBANY — The Raiders swept their two games at the Stephen Gussler Holiday Invitiational over winter break to end 2017, securing a 60-57 overtime win over Chillicothe and a 68-56 win over Cincinnati LaSalle in back-to-back days at Thomas Worthington High School. Reynoldsburg was denied a win in their first game of 2018 after losing a close, low-scoring 48-42 contest at home to division leader Pickerington North on Friday January 5th, and they saw a once 19-point lead gradually disappear during the second half in the hands of the Eagles on Tuesday, January 9th.
But the Raiders would not be denied this time.
The Raiders (7-4) raced out to a 30-11 lead not even halfway into the 2nd quarter and never looked back. New Albany would rally twice in the second half to get within single digits of the Raiders, particularly thanks to a quick 10-0 4th quarter Eagles run, but Reynoldsburg dominated from down low and secured some key baskets late to spoil the Eagles’ comeback bid with a 53-45 road win.
Senior Tre Williams finished with a game-high 19 points, and Cole Crosby added 13 points off the bench for the Raiders.
“I was scratching the offensive glass and then just posting hard, ” Williams said after the game of his big scoring night. “My teammates were looking for me and I was just finishing.”
Senior guard Jamiel Goliday got the Raiders on the board within five seconds of the opening tip, which set the stage for a great Raiders start. Williams would score four quick points in the post before Crosby added two of his own in similar fashion shortly after he checked in just over halfway into the 1st quarter. The Raiders would get off to a 13-8 lead with 2:59 left in the period before blowing the game open with a 17-3 run, with most of the points coming from Williams and Crosby. Ben Fort would score four points while Goliday would add two more in the scoring run to give the Raiders a 30-11 lead with 4:25 left in the 2nd quarter.
The Eagles then clawed their way back with nine unanswered points in a minute and half, but Crosby drew a foul, made the basket, and scored the free throw to preserve a double digit lead of 33-22 going into the locker room.
Riding a bit of momentum, the Eagles had some ideas of their own up their sleeve after ending the half on an 11-3 run.
“They kind of slowed it down in the second half, but we just weren’t focused enough and weren’t making our shots,” Williams would go on to say. “We had to just lock in and do better.”
In fact, nobody scored at all until New Albany cut the Raiders’ lead to nine with a layup to make it 33-24 Raiders with 5:29 left in the 3rd quarter. Reynoldsburg would then miss a basket, and then would catch a big break when the Eagles missed a three and came up empty despite an offensive rebound a minute later. With 3:35 left in the 3rd quarter, the Raiders would finally get on the board out of the locker room thanks to a transition layup by Goliday, and Crosby would add another bucket in transition a minute after that to extend the lead to 37-24 with 2:23 left in the period. Both teams would trade baskets from there, but an inbound pass from Nesion Anderson to Cole Crosby under the rim resulted in a layup as time expired in the quarter and a 41-26 Raiders lead going into the final eight minutes of regulation.
Elijah Thurston would get on the board in grand fashion, scoring six points on three possessions a minute apart from each other to give the Raiders a 47-28 lead with 5:30 to go and were beginning to pull away.
But the Eagles would not quit. New Albany would score a three on their next possession, and then hit another from downtown after a Raiders turnover at half court. The Raiders would come up empty again on their next two possessions, while the Eagles scored on both of theirs as part of a 10-0 run in just under two minutes. They would call timeout with 3:45 to go and the Raiders now up 47-38. Two baskets by Williams, one by Fort, and a New Albany basket in between would give the Raiders a 53-43 cushion with under a minute to go in regulation. The Eagles would get one more basket but couldn’t convert their other late opportunities, and the Raiders would emerge victorious.
“Offensively, we have to play as a team,” Williams would go on to say. “No one person can just lead us, and all of us have to contribute scoring as a whole.”
Despite Williams and Crosby combining for 32 of the Raiders’ 53 points, critical assists and patient ball movement ended up resulting in all of their points, particularly in the paint. Malcolm Murphy made the only three-pointer for the Raiders not even two minutes into the game; the Raiders did not score again from downtown the rest of the way, and are looking to regain their rhythm from behind the arc. But strong performances from Williams, the team’s leading scorer, and strong defense by the team overall have done wonders for the team this season and have made big differences in games, including at New Albany. Even more, Crosby has emerged as a shut-down defender for the team as the season has progressed, and the senior has contributed just as well offensively. With the Raiders losing senior guard Myonne Turner to injury late in the final game in 2017, Crosby has further stepped up in his absence and has been key for the Raiders’ success overall in 2017-18.
“I always thought I could be as good as everybody else,” Crosby said after the game. “On defense, I always wanted to shut down their best player. [On offense] I crash the boards and I cut a lot, so that’s how I get a lot of my points.”
He certainly did both of those things against the Eagles on Tuesday night.
When it was all said and done in New Albany, the Raiders left as winners of three of their past four games. But the Raiders certainly will not be taking any chances when they play next at Lancaster, which is typically not the easiest gym to play in. On the flip side, given that three of their four losses this season were by single digits, each possession going forward will be critical for the Raiders on both sides of the ball, especially if it wants to remain on pace in the OCC-Ohio division.
“We’ve shown that we can lose to teams that we should beat, so our mindset should be going in [to Lancaster] and killing this game,” Crosby said.