HOWARD — The Loudonville Redbirds used a lethal combination of solid passing, lights out shooting and airtight defense to defeat the host East Knox Bulldogs, 53-46, in Mid-Buckeye Conference basketball action on Wednesday evening.
Skiles Haag dropped in 17 points to lead the Redbirds. Teammate Dakota Zickefoose added 10 more. Zickefoose, Skiles Haag, Cooper Charlton (seven points) and Chance Lee (seven points) went an incredible 19-of-21 from the floor. Loudonville was 20-of-30 in field goals for the night. East Knox was a disappointing 14-of-39 from the floor.
“We needed to shoot the basketball a little bit better,” said East Knox coach Don McDaniel. “We probably need to improve our shot selection at certain times. Sometimes, in the game, we had good shot selections. Whether they went in or not, they were good shots. Other times, our shot selection was probably not the best. I’m proud of them. They did what we asked them to do.”
It was close early, but the Redbirds took a slim 14-13 lead in the early minutes of the second period. That’s when the Redbirds went on an 8-0 run, which included Taylor Harris hitting a bucket and Skiles Haag hitting two more — the second coming on an offensive rebound. The Loudonville defense held the Bulldogs to four points in the quarter. Suddenly, the Redbirds were in command, 22-13.
“I thought we executed well for the first three quarters,” said Loudonville coach Kelly Seboe. “We put our guys in a position where they could hit some shots.”
“Give Loudonville’s defense credit,” said McDaniel. “They contest everything, they contest every pass, every shot. They contest everything you try to do. That’s good defense and that takes you out of your rhythm offensively.”
Midway through the third, with Loudonville still ahead, 33-21, the Bulldogs got tough on defense and the Redbirds made several errors, almost letting Loudonville back in the game. East Knox center Luke Branstool (eight rebounds) making his final home appearance for the Bulldogs, made a shot and landed a couple of free throws. Dakota Anderson hit a shot of his own and Drew Faucett hit a 3-pointer to shrink the Redbirds’ lead to five, 33-28, with two minutes left in the third.
“I think we stepped up the defensive pressure a little bit,” said McDaniel. “(Loudonville) threw a couple of balls away that weren’t even close to anybody and they hit the walls. I attribute that to a little defensive pressure from us.”
“East Knox is really good in those scramble situations,” said Seboe. “It seems that, if they need to hit a big 3, to cut the lead to five, they seem to hit it. With Branstool, you have to take somebody off a perimeter guy to help guard him and that leaves a guy open.”
That was as close as the Bulldogs would get as the low post opened up for the Redbirds. Trevor Mowery hit Skiles Haag with a pass underneath. Haag scored on that one and also on Charlton’s pass down low on Loudonville’s next possession. Charlton converted on a Mark Mowery pass, hitting another one inside in the closing seconds of the third quarter to stretch Loudonville’s lead to 40-30.
“Our guys made real good passes,” said Seboe. “They took what the defense gave them.”
A loss on Senior Night is a tough way to finish their last home game, but Bulldogs’ seniors — Branstool, Colton Tucker (two points), Michael Hedrick (eight points) and Nick McCamment (two 3-pointers) — know that the road is not over, yet.
“I just hated for them to go out this way because we wanted a better season,” said McDaniel. “We wanted to send them out the right way and we still have an opportunity in the tournament, so it’s not over. Hopefully, well get a day of practice in with this snow. It’s going to be a tough one at Danville (for the regular season finale.) I don’t care what the records are or who’s playing. When you throw that ball up, it going to be a tough game. We have to be ready.”