Craft leads Liberty-Benton to road win over Ottoville

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Liberty-Benton 72, Ottoville 56
Aaron Craft can make basketball look easy. He can also make it easy to forget that he is only a sophomore. Saturday, on the road against Ottoville, Kraft was scoring points, distributing the rock to his Liberty-Benton teammates and playing with intensity on defense. He finished with 25 points and the Eagles, ranked No. 1 in the state, rolled to a 72-56 victory over the Big Green at L.W. Heckman Gymnasium


OTTOVILLE – Aaron Craft can make basketball look easy. He can also make it easy to forget that he is only a sophomore.

Saturday, on the road against Ottoville in a non-conference showdown, Kraft was scoring points, distributing the rock to his Liberty-Benton teammates for open shots and playing with intensity on defense. He finished with 25 points and the Eagles, ranked No. 1 in the state, rolled to a 72-56 victory over the Big Green at L.W. Heckman Gymnasium.

Craft seemed to shrug off his performance as no big deal, instead pushing off the credit to his teammates.

“They make me look good,” Craft said. “I have the easy part. I just have to get them the basketball and they do the rest.”

Long-time L-B head coach Steve Williman will tell you how important Craft is to the success of the Eagles (11-0), who seem to have picked up right where they left off after going 26-1 and finishing as the Division III state runner-up to North College Hill back in March.

He will tell you how Craft makes the offense run like a well-oiled machine and how he doesn't seem to have a selfish bone in his body.

“Aaron makes us go. He can create plays for himself and create things for others,” Williman said. “He does such a great job of breaking down defenses and is so unselfish. He is a tremendous athlete.”

Just look at what he did early on against the Big Green. There was the sweet one-hand bounce pass he threaded inside to Justin Hyde for a layup that gave the Eagles a 6-3 lead.

There was the coast-to-coast layup late in the opening period that stretched L-B's advantage to 17-10.

And don't forget about the acrobatic layup he made as he was falling to the floor. He drew a foul on the play and nailed the free throw to put L-B in front 35-29 just before halftime.

The Eagles led 37-31 at the break and broke the game open in the second half, stretching their lead to 56-40 at the end of the third as Ottoville (5-8) had no answer for Craft.

But it wasn't just Craft who was carving up the Big Green.

Andy Smith and Derek Recker each lit up the scoreboard for 19 points in the win.

Still, Williman was quick to give credit to the effort put forth by the Big Green, who were paced by the 13-point effort of Brad Turnwald.

Jacob Landin clicked for 12 points and Keith Pohlman hit for 11 points.

“Ottoville played hard on defense all night and did a good job of getting offensive rebounds,” Williman said. “I thought we got more aggressive in the second half and made some big plays to take control.”

But even after a relatively easy victory, one that comes on the heels of an 87-20 drubbing of Hardin-Northern, the Eagles are not content with their success.

They know they still have big games left on their schedule and that they can't afford to lose their focus as they prepare for the stretch run of the regular season.

“It's a great honor to be ranked No. 1 but being No. 1 doesn't win games for us,” Craft said. “We still have to come out ready to play every night. We have a lot of games to play still and we can't worry about looking ahead to the (postseason). We have to come out focused every night.”

Williman is pleased with the success his team has enjoyed up to this point and notes that the Eagles continue to get better each passing day.

“Every day in practice we improve,” Williman said. “This team works hard and plays hard and that has to continue for us to be successful.”

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