VERNON — With about a minute remaining in the third quarter Tuesday night, Chalker took a 59-50 lead over Badger. On the ensuing possession, Jack Lendak drove down the court and drained a 3-pointer to carve into what was the largest lead either team had in the game.
The Braves rode that momentum and a 27-point night by Lendak to come back and get the victory, beating the Wildcats 79-74 to split the season series between the schools.
“I thought we came out with a lot of energy tonight,” Braves coach Josh Upshire said. “That’s the one thing we’ve been preaching the last few games is coming out with a bunch of energy. I thought we came out with a lot of energy defensively, created a bunch of turnovers there early. That allowed us to build a little bit of lead there in the first, but then we tired out a little bit, gave up some easy buckets there in the second and allowed them to take the lead back.
“Overall, I think our energy was very good tonight and I think that putting the press on them in the fourth quarter helped us a lot.”
Another thing that helped was bringing Carter Burnett back into the mix after losing him to a broken arm. Burnett, a 6-foot-5 senior, added 15 points as well as being a solid presence in the paint.
“Having a 6-5 athlete in the back of the lane in Division IV basketball really helps a lot,” Upshire said.
That defense had a hard time containing Chalker’s “big guy” however, as Jordan Kellar went off, tallying a game-high 34 points for the Wildcats.
Chalker sits at 7-10 on the season and 5-9 in the Northeastern Athletic Conference. After a rough start to the season constantly losing players to illness, the team is starting to develop some consistency.
To coach Michael Karr, the play and growth of the senior class has been crucial in the team seeing the success they have had this year.
“For these boys, they have seven wins this year and that’s probably more than they’ve had since junior high combined,” Karr said. “They’ve made great strides this year, I’m super proud of them for that and how hard they’ve been working, so it’s tough to let this one go.”
Lendak has had a stellar senior campaign so far for the Braves. A month ago, in the first go-around against Chalker, Lendak set the school records for 3-pointers in a single game, points in a single quarter (27) and points in a single game. The latter of which was set by Lendak’s father, who is often reminded by his son that his record was beaten.
Over the summer, the Braves trained at Mount Union and scrimmaged Akron Buchtel. Lendak had the task of guarding five-star prospect and Kentucky commit Chris Livingston and that challenge has only benefited the Badger senior this year.
“I was just giving it my all,” Lendak said. “I put in the work over the summer and like coach said, it transferred into the year. It helped quite a bit.”
Brad Hamilton tacked on 18 points for Badger.
Badger opens up its tournament run against Jackson-Milton in the Division IV Struthers District. The winner advances to play Lisbon in the sectional bracket final. For the Braves to get to districts, it’s going to come down to defense and spreading the ball around better.
“We’ve got to shore up some things on defense,” Upshire said. “We need to rebound the basketball a little bit better. They got some second chance points tonight. I know the first thing we play, Jackson-Milton has two really good guards that we’re going to have to focus on and take out of the game a little bit, and I know they’re going to gameplan to take Jack and Brad out of the game, so we’re going to need some other guys to step up and score some points.”
Before that however, they close the regular season out on the road against Windham today and Mathews on Friday.
Chalker closes out the regular season with a back-to-back on Thursday and Friday, both at home. On Thursday they host Bristol and on Friday they host Windham. Their tournament run begins in the Division IV Orwell District where they’ll face Fairport Harding. The winner advances to take on Kennedy.
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