BOWLING GREEN – The Libbey Cowboys used a two and half minute spurt in the third quarter to build a 13 point lead over a determined Lexington Minuteman squad Sunday to win the Division II Bowling Green regional title and a trip to the state final four next weekend in Columbus. The Cowboys, led by Ohio State bound William Buford with 20 points, defeated the Minutemen, 65-51, but they knew throughout that they were in a dogfight.
“They had their surges, we had ours,” said Lexington head coach Grant Weaver. “Of course, they ended up having a real big in the third and it ended up being a little too much for our pulling out of. Our kids kept fighting and battled back and I know our guys know in their hearts and minds that they left it out on the floor.”
The Minutemen played a 2-3 zone for the entire first half; a zone that seemingly caused the Cowboys considerable difficulty. For the half, the Cowboys shot only 33-percent (9-for-27) and despite enjoying the lead for most of the half, were in danger in the closing moments of the second quarter of seeing the battling Minutemen take the lead.
Commenting on the use of the zone, coach Weaver stated:
“They had some perimeter threats but, as a team, we thought we would rather take away their inside game then their outside game. Pick your poison so to speak. The 2-3 had worked pretty well for us in a couple of different games against similar teams this year so we decided to pack it in. It worked real well in the first half but unfortunately when we got back in a hole you can’t keep packing it in.”
The third quarter was not kind to the Minutemen.
The Cowboys, who had not utilized a press the entire first half, came out in the second half applying a full court zone press that may have caught the Minutemen by surprise. Beginning when Libbey senior post player Julius Wells hit two free throws and ending just over two minutes later on a rainbow three by William Buford, the Cowboys extended their one point halftime lead to thirteen with a 12-point run (33-20) and never looked back.
“We haven’t used that (the zone press) in about four weeks,” said Libbey coach Leroy Bates. “I think it shook them a little bit and we knew we had to do something different to take them off their rhythm.”
On several occasions in the fourth quarter Lexington managed to pull within 8 of the Cowboys and, with 2:49 remaining in the game there was even a glimmer of hope as Buford picked up his fifth foul. But the Cowboys proved to be up to the task.
Buford led the Cowboys in scoring with 20 points, while Wells added 15 and Brad Sandridge chipped in 11. In addition to his 15 points, Wells also pulled down 12 rebounds.
With his 20 points against Lexington, Buford surpassed the 2,000 point mark in his career at Libbey. Entering the state semifinals next week against undefeated St. Paris Graham, who defeated Kettering Alter, 69-61, Buford has a career total of 2,009 points.
For the Minutemen, sophomore guard Courtney Avery was the big scorer. Avery ended the game with 19 points, which included 11-of-12 from the free throw line. Tyler Munro added 14.
Lexington ends their season with an overall record of 20-5. Interestingly, their loss to Libbey was their only loss all season to a Division II school.
Libbey improves to 23-2 and will play at 10:45 am next Thursday at the Value City Arena.