UTICA — The Utica High School boys basketball team met up with the Johnstown High School team in a Mid-Buckeye Conference battle Tuesday night. Most of the game was back and forth through, but the Redskins outlasted the Johnnies to grab a 45-38 victory.
“We have been on a skid the last couple of weeks,” said Utica head coach Eric Sheck. “We have been in every game, and for whatever reason, it seemed to come down to little things every time. The staff and myself have been preaching to our guys that we need to work on doing the little things right. Our guys have started to buy into doing the little things right, day in and day out. This was a big win for us to get off our little skid. Hopefully, we can build off this.”
Both teams hit the floor running and the first quarter was the most action-packed on the offensive end. Johnstown started off building a six-point lead, but Utica fought back and the first quarter ended with the score knotted at 15.
Utica got a big second quarter from Justin Dassylva to gain momentum going into the halftime break. Dassylva scored seven of his game-high 20 points in the second quarter, and Utica took a 26-22 lead into the locker room.
The third quarter saw both teams tighten up defensively and hold the opposition from going on any scoring runs. Utica had seven points to Johnstown’s six, and the teams headed into the fourth quarter with the Redskins up, 33-28.
The fourth quarter saw Utica jump out to its biggest lead of the game. The Redskins started the quarter on a 7-1 run and had a comfortable 11-point lead before Johnstown jumped back into the contest.
“Basketball is all about runs,” said Sheck. “We went with a little smaller lineup and were able to spread them out just a little bit. We got some easy layups and built up the lead.
“I think we got up a little lethargic and let them back in,” he continued. “It’s an opportunity for us to learn from it.”
Johnstown scored six straight to get back into the game, down only by five points, but Utica held on for the victory.
“Tonight we got to the hole and finished more,” Sheck said. “We knocked our free throws down and played well. Our guys have responded well even in these tough times. We have been telling them we are going through some adversity, but this is when you learn. Hopefully, this gives us some confidence to come back and make a second half push in the league. Hopefully we can get a couple more wins.”
“We turned the ball over way too much and we didn’t make free throws,” said Johnstown head coach Kevin Martin. “I thought we defended pretty well and ran our offense pretty well, we just had way too many turnovers. I can’t fault our guys for battling. We played hard, we came out ready to play, which has been a struggle for us the last couple of games.”
Utica was led by Dassylva and his 20-point night while Joe Metzger chipped in 11 points. The Johnnies were led by Riley Cannon, who scored 18 points and grabbed 14 boards. Cody Green added six points.
The Johnnies play host to MBC leader Centerburg on Friday.
“We go back to work tomorrow,” Martin said. “We have Centerburg coming in on Friday night, so it doesn’t get any easier. We’ll continue to battle and work on the things we need to work on, on both sides of the floor.”
Next up for the Redskins is East Knox.
“We go back on the road at East Knox on Friday,” said Sheck. “We already had a close game with them, and they are going to come at us with everything they’ve got. We have to play our style of basketball. If we can handle the ball and control the glass and finish inside, then I like our chances. We have to play together as a team the whole time; when we haven’t done that, we have been unsuccessful.”
Both games begin with freshman play at 4:30 p.m.