The Buchtel Griffins captured the Akron City Series postseason title on Friday night after a 72-68 win over Ellet. It was the second meeting between the two teams in less than a week.
Buchtel also defeated Ellet in the first meeting last Tuesday by a final score of 62-55. The Buchtel victory clinched the regular season title with an undefeated 11-0 record in conference play.
“They plan for you day in and day out. You just have to keep coming up with game plans and doing what you do as a team” freshman Chris Livingston said before the title game against Ellet. “We have to play together, play smart and play hard.”
Before tip-off, awards were given for Coach of the Year, First Team All-City and Player of the Year. The Griffins took home much of the hardware as Matt Futch was named Coach of the Year, senior Jonathan King was named First Team, and Chris Livingston was awarded Player of the Year along with First Team honors.
Ellet entered the contest with a plan to pressure the ball, trap the wings and try to create turnovers.
“They did what they thought we had a weakness at and they pressured us,” coach Futch said. “They did a good job at it, and we just overcame it.”
Some shaking and baking from Chris Livingston to set up King. pic.twitter.com/G4JBLUt5GK
— Matt Goul (@mgoul) February 6, 2019
Led by its pressure defense, Ellet finished the first quarter with a 16-11 lead. The Orangemen did a great job setting the tone early and getting the crowd involved.
In the second quarter, Chris Livingston got the offense going. A mid-range jumper in the teeth of a 2-3 zone, followed by a 4-point play and smooth crossover leading to a step-back jumper gave the Griffins a 19-16 lead.
Still, Ellet had an answer for every shift in momentum by Buchtel. The two squads entered halftime break with Ellet claiming a 38-31 advantage.
Buchtel was bothered by the full court taps in the first half, but the Griffins settled down in the third quarter. The Buchtel shooters began finding the weak spots in the Ellet zone. Livingston again showcased his improving ball-handling on the wing with another step-back 3-pointer which he scored through some contact that went uncalled— the packed crowd erupted.
Ellet held a narrow 48-47 lead at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth, Buchtel kept attacking. Jonathan King was a big part of the fourth quarter effort for the Griffins as his aggressiveness to the basket kept Buchtel in the game.
After four quarters, Chris Livingston was too much for the Orangemen. He sealed the deal down the stretch. During one sequence, Livingston put-back his own miss and was fouled to give Buchtel a 61-59 advantage with under three minutes left.
Defensively, Livingston stayed engaged. A breakaway dunk with two minutes remaining electrified the already energetic crowd. After an Ellet run, Chris Livingston got another breakaway which led to a thunderous dunk as time expired putting an exclamation point on a hard fought 72-68 win.
Chris Livingston led Buchtel with 28 points and 13 rebounds, while Jonathan King posted 21 points and 11 boards of his own. Ellet was led by senior Jarmond Hogg with 22 points.
The Buchtel roster is comprised of only two seniors, Jonathan King and Anthony Hunt. According to Griffins coach Matt Futch, the city championship was especially meaningful for King.
“Last year he came up short, he was actually one of the guys that had an opportunity to make a layup and make it interesting down the stretch last year,” Futch said. “This year, coming through making the nice pass to Chris to ice the game [and] make some free throws, I’m just so happy for him.”
A look at what Jonathan King is up to. pic.twitter.com/tJXbzVY3Nj
— Matt Goul (@mgoul) February 6, 2019
The win called for some big plays in key moments from reserves as well as the starters. Sophomores Robert Young-Jones and Kyrese Smith along with freshman Cordell Livingston came off the bench to provide quality minutes.
And of course, there was freshman phenomenon Chris Livingston. During his postgame comments, Livingston remained humble and credited the victory to a team effort.
“Like my brother said, people just stepped up defensively and offensively,” Livingston said. “It wasn’t even our starters in at the end of the game, but people still stepped up [and] made plays… We did good at the end of the game, we had grit and grind.”
And after celebrating on the court with his teammates and cutting down the nets, Livingston couldn’t help but feel proud about the accomplishment.
“It was great… It was like giving us a taste of winning a championship. I think this is going to bring us together. It was a grit and grind game. It wasn’t easy, but I think we did great.”
Darnell Jones is a contributor for Mars Reel based in Northeast Ohio