By Nick Dudukovich Special Correspondent
January 4, 2014
YELLOW SPRINGS — Xenia Christian senior Justin Martin is one of the Metro Buckeye Conference’s most prolific scorers — and that offensive prowess helped the visiting Ambassadors stave off a Yellow Springs comeback attempt Friday night.
Martin drained two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and took the wind out of any Yellow Springs (1-7, 0-3 MBC) momentum as Xenia Christian (4-3, 2-2 MBC) held on for a 64-50 victory.
“He’s the reason we came out with a victory today,” said Xenia Christian coach Shaun Power. “Justin is a big-time player. He’s being recruited by colleges, and you saw why.”
Power said his team was fortunate to leave Yellow Springs with a victory, considering his squad took a 20-point lead into halftime.
When play resumed in the third quarter, Yellow Springs used an 11-2 run to cut the deficit to 11 with 4:30 remaining.
Revamped play from the Ambassadors’ defense helped prop that lead back up to 15 going into the final period, but even that lead wasn’t safe.
The Bulldogs kept chipping away and cut the lead to six with under four minutes to play after Liam Weigand made two free throws.
Xenia Christian answered with help from Jordan Freeman, who cashed in two of his own free throws before hitting on a field-goal attempt that put the lead back into double digits for good. Freeman finished with 12.
While the win brought Xenia Christian back to .500 in league play, there was a solemn feel in the Ambassadors’ locker room after the game.
“The attitude in the locker room was almost like a loss afterwards, because we’ve got to continue to work to keep our focus and we lost that a little in the third quarter, but we gained it back thanks to some good play from our seniors,” Power said.
Xenia Christian jumped out to a 17-5 lead in the first quarter behind the play of Jonny Eustace, who netted eight of his 14 points in the opening period while coming off the bench.
For Bulldogs’ coach Steve Grasso, Yellow Springs’ offense stalled early on because of its inability to make easy shots.
“We missed at least 10 layups in the first quarter, and came out flat,” Grasso said.
The Bulldogs fared just a little better in the second quarter, but still had just 14 points to show for the half.
Grasso believes his team, which is underclassmen heavy, needs to forge through the tough spots.
“It’s such a young team…and its easy to feel like things aren’t going your way, but you have to fight through it,” he said.
Sophomore guard Kaner Butler led Yellow Springs with 14 points, while 6-4, 215-pound sophomore Isaiah Taylor had 11 points, along with 10 rebounds.
While Yellow Springs has struggled early on, Power considers the road win a big accomplishment.
“Historically, Yellow Springs is in the top three every year. It doesn’t matter if they have three guys on their team, getting a win here is big.”