ANSONIA – Arcanum earned its first Cross County Conference victory of the season behind a strong defensive performance against Ansonia, winning 40-36 on Friday night.
Arcanum held Ansonia to a season-low 36 points, more than 20 points below the Tigers’ season average. Arcanum boys basketball coach Marcus Bixler credited the Trojans’ strong defense and rebounding for Friday’s victory.
“I’m really excited,” Bixler said. “We did a good job of getting some key stops and some key rebounds. I felt like we dominated the boards tonight. When you shoot as many 3s as they do, you’re going to see a lot of long rebounds throughout the night, and for us to be able to control the glass it was the difference in the game.”
Ansonia coach Chad Cramer liked his team’s performance but said the shots simply weren’t falling for the Tigers.
“I told our guys I liked the way they played,” Cramer said. “In the second half we were down and we forced some turnovers. I thought we got a lot of shots that we would want to take there at the end; we just didn’t make them. The next night we play like that, we hit them and maybe we win. I liked our guy’s effort tonight. I liked a lot about us. We just didn’t come away with the win.”
Ansonia’s shooting struggles materialized early as several 3-pointers rolled around the rim and bounced out in the first quarter, which aided Arcanum in building a 10-5 lead in the opening period.
Behind strong play from Aydan Sanders and Hunter Muir, Ansonia’s fortunes began to change in the second quarter. The duo combined for 13 points in the period then Reece Stammen added a pair of free throws to knot up the score at 20-all entering halftime.
Arcanum and Ansonia played even in the third quarter, sending the game into the final eight minutes deadlocked at 30-30.
Muir put the Tigers up 32-30 with a basket in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, but then Arcanum’s Carter Gray took over. The Trojan sophomore drained a 3-pointer and drew a foul that resulted in a 4-point play and gave Arcanum a 34-32 lead with 6:41 to play.
Less than 30 seconds later, Gray hit an off-balance shot and again drew a foul for an old-fashioned 3-point play and a 37-32 Arcanum advantage.
“He had struggled a little bit handling the basketball the first half. It slipped out of his hands a couple times, and he just wasn’t being strong and tight with it,” Bixler said of Gray, who scored 13 of his game-high 17 points in the second half. “I thought those were two great possessions. We got him going. He’s an unbelievable shooter, and you get the opportunity then on the big offensive rebound and the put-back with the and-one, that’s a huge, huge momentum change.”
Arcanum had played well defensively all night but really clamped down in the fourth quarter. The Trojans limited the Tigers to just 6 fourth quarter points to close out the 40-36 victory.
“We did a good job of keeping them out of the paint,” Bixler said. “Muir is a load, and you surround him with that many shooters it’s not an easy guard; they’re tough to defend.”
Muir led Ansonia with 14 points on Friday. Also for the Tigers, Sanders scored 10 points, Devyn Sink scored 5, Hunter Buckingham scored 3, Trevor Alexander scored 2, and Stammen scored 2.
Gray led Arcanum with his game-high 17 points. Also for the Trojans, Evan Atchley scored 8 points, Grant Delk scored 5, Lane Byrne scored 4, Andrew Baker scored 3, and Wills Troutwine scored 3.
Arcanum improved to 4-5 overall and 1-3 in the CCC with Friday’s win while Ansonia dropped to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the league.
Arcanum will return to action on Saturday with a home game against Dixie. Ansonia will travel to Twin Valley South on Tuesday.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.