GROVE CITY — Coming off a tough 63-58 home loss against Pickerington Central on Friday night, in which the Tigers pulled away in the 4th quarter, the Raiders looked to bounce back at Central Crossing on Tuesday February 6th. For the second straight regular season, the Comets gave the Raiders everything they had. Last season, the Comets led by as many as 16 and by double digits in the 4th quarter before the Raiders rallied for a 64-62 home victory. On Tuesday night, both teams combined for only 78 points as both offenses struggled for the entire game.
But the Raiders won by six: the stat that mattered the most when it was all said and done.
The Raiders (12-7) trailed by one with 5:55 to go in regulation and found themselves in a tie with the Comets two minutes later. The defense dominated the whole night and came up big late, holding the Comets to two free throws the rest of the way as part of a game-ending 8-2 run, and Reynoldsburg escaped with a 42-36 road victory.
Senior Tre Williams led all scorers with 14 points, and scored the first six points of the game for Reynoldsburg before being held scoreless the rest of the first half. Central Crossing held the ball for about a minute on a lot of their possessions of the night, capitalizing when needed to stay in the game. The Comets would hit two short baskets and two free throws, but early turnovers and offensive fouls hurt the Raiders on the scoreboard. Ben Fort would score the only other basket of the opening period as the Raiders led only 8-6 after the 1st quarter.
Elijah Thurston would hit from down low in traffic to extend the Raiders’ lead to four to start the 2nd quarter, but the Comets would eat a minute off the clock and swish a three-pointer to make it 10-9 Raiders with 6:20 left in the half. The only combined scoring in the next three and a half minutes came at the free throw line, with both the Raiders and Comets three combined free throws at the charity stripe to eventually tie the game at 11-11 with 2:52 left in the half. Williams would then miss the front end of a one-and-one that led to a Comets layup, and Central Crossing would hit from downtown off of a Raiders offensive foul to extend their lead to five over the Raiders just over a minute later. But Jamiel Goliday would score on emphatic fastbreak layups on consecutive possessions a short time later to give the Raiders momentum, and Central Crossing would hit one more late free throw to take a 17-15 halftime lead over Reynoldsburg.
Nobody scored at all in the second half until Malcolm Murphy hit a three-pointer with 6:14 left in the 3rd quarter, and Goliday would convert on an offensive rebound a short time later to put the Raiders up 20-17. The Comets would quickly tie it from behind the arc before Williams got on the scoreboard with a putback basket for his first points since the opening quarter. Williams would then hit another basket in the paint and miss the ensuing free throw, but Goliday got through the Comets defense for the putback to extend the Raiders’ lead to 26-20 with 3:20 left in the 3rd quarter.
Central Crossing would score six of the next eight points to end the period, and would eventually score on a layup with 6:35 to go to tie the game. Fort would then split a pair of free throws at the line, and Central Crossing would respond with another layup as part of a 10-3 Comets run to take a 30-29 lead over the Raiders with 5:55 to go. Baskets by Fort, Williams, and Thurston going one-for-two at the free throw line would put the Raiders up by four a minute and a half later, but the Comets would tie it 34-34 with 3:52 to go after hitting a bucket and two free throws.
Williams would give the Raiders the lead for good thanks to some good footwork and a basket in the paint, and Reynoldsburg would pull away from there. Fort would split a pair of free throws and hit from down low on consecutive possessions, and Central Crossing would score its final basket on a layup to get within four with 32.7 seconds to play. Thurston would then make two late free throws to ice the game, and Central Crossing couldn’t get a shot off the rest of the way as time expired and the Raiders escaped with the 42-36 road win.