Kaner Butler was upset about how he was playing and it affected everything.
“When things aren’t going his way he takes it really to heart because he’s such a hard worker,” Yellow Springs boys basketball coach Steve Grasso said.
So Grasso had a message for Butler.
“Mainly my coach just said it’s important for me to keep my head because when I get angry at the game I play bad,” said Butler, a 6-foot-1 junior. “But when I keep my head that’s when I’m at my best.”
Butler’s best showed up in the fourth quarter Saturday night. The Bulldogs had lost all of a 12-point halftime lead to Stebbins, and leading scorer Isaiah Taylor went to the bench with his fourth foul with 6:52 left. Butler scored the Bulldogs’ next eight points and nine in the quarter to lead his team to a heart-pounding 47-46 nonconference victory.
“He changed back to the positive Kaner,” Grasso said. “It was just a little click of the mindset.”
Butler’s final point, a free throw, put the Bulldogs (12-3) up 45-42 with 37 seconds left, but a strange finish was coming.
Liam Weigand made the first of two free throws for a 47-45 lead with 10 seconds left. Devon Perry was waiting at the scorer’s table to replace Weigand. But Weigand missed the second shot.
In his excitement, Perry ran onto the floor to replace Weigand while the ball was live. Perry stole a pass, made a layup and was fouled with eight seconds showing. The home crowd was going crazy, but one official saw that Perry had run onto the floor out of turn and stopped play. A technical foul was assessed.
Stebbins’ Evan Monoghan made one of the two technical shots. With the clock reset to 10 seconds, Stebbins had a chance to win. Mark Akridge’s 15-footer bounced off the rim and Calvin Bransford Jr. grabbed the offensive rebound. He had time to score, but the Bulldogs’ Taylor got a hand on the shot and the game ended.
“Intense, emotional … very emotional for the team because towards the second half and the third quarter we played bad and they came back,” said Taylor, who scored 12 of his 15 points in the second quarter when the Bulldogs led by as many as 14.
Grasso said Perry, who made three 3-pointers for nine points, felt badly about his mistake.
“But this is a tight-knit group,” Grasso said. “That kind of relieved pressure on us in a close game, and we kind of laughed about it. And when they missed the first free throw I really felt we were going to win.”
Stebbins (4-9) lost its eighth straight and played its third game without 17-points-a-game scorer JaQuan Dangerfield. He is on crutches with a stress fracture in his left leg and out for the season. Akridge, who scored nine points, just played in his second game after becoming eligible as a transfer.
“We’re still trying to figure out who we are and some guys are stepping up,” Indians coach Jeremey Finn said. “It’s like we’re reinventing ourselves.”