Exactly one week ago, Buchtel captured the Akron City Series Championship over Ellet 70-68. On Friday night, in the final home game of the regular season, Buchtel needed a late surge to come from behind and defeat Maple Heights 78-75.
Chris Livingston is in the midst of a dominant sophomore season at Buchtel. Heading into senior night, Livingston was on a tear playing some of his best basketball of the year.
Early in the first quarter, Livingston was hobbled by a lower leg injury. In his absence, Maple Heights took the lead with Buchtel playing from behind for most of the first half. Limited by the injury, the Griffins needed to play through adversity as Livingston impacts so many different areas of the game.
Livingston switched his offensive tactics as a result of the injury. He operated primarily out of low post on Friday night, showcasing a post-game that he had not yet unveiled this season.
Livingston subbed out as Buchtel cut the Maple Heights lead to 52-51 in the third quarter. The Mustangs went on a 15-0 run with Livingston on the bench to extend their lead to 67-51.
With the momentum against them, Buchtel had to regroup and put together stops on the defensive end. Led by freshman Cordell Livingston and sophomore Martavien Johnson, the Buchtel comeback was on.
Buchtel sophomores Noah Peeples and Tae Perie also came alive down the stretch for the Griffins. Perie stayed aggressive throughout the night mixing up dribble drives and keeping the defense honest from three.
Peeples shined bright against Maple Heights finishing with a career-high 31 points. The 6-foot-4 forward has fared well this year as a pick-and-pop four man. As a lefty, Peeples finds different angles around the basket to finish over length. He spoke after the game about rallying together as a team in light of the injury to Livingston.
“We were talking in the huddle. I was boosting my teammates up, I was trying to boost up Chris because [his] ankle was injured… and it kind of like slowed us down. Chris is one of our most dominant players. It put a little bit of pressure in us. But throughout the way we practiced, we practice as a team, so for real it was all a team effort.”
Chris Livingston finished the game with 20 points and 4 threes, while Tae Perie finished with 15. A late stop on the final possession secured a 78-75 win for Buchtel as the Griffins will look to wrap-up the regular season.
On Tuesday, Buchtel is on the road against Archbishop Hoban in the finale before the start of the postseason. The district tournament brackets were already revealed and Buchtel was awarded the No. 2 seed with a first round bye in the Canton District.
The winner of Manchester vs. Marlington on February 26th will face the Griffins on March 1st at Buchtel.
Darnell Jones is a contributor for Mars Reel based in Northeast Ohio