LEETONIA-Heartland Christian forward Caleb House started out on fire, saw his team's double-digit lead evaporate, but then helped deliver the knockout blow.
The senior had a season-high 23 points and eight rebounds as Heartland Christian used two big runs to down Leetonia, 54-44, Tuesday.
"I can't claim too much credit tonight," House said. "It's all a team effort. Everybody out there worked really hard and I just happened to knock down some shots."
House scored 16 first-half points as the Lions (9-4) burst out to a 12-point lead and withstood a lackluster second quarter before reclaiming control in the second half.
House had a quieter second half until early in the fourth quarter, with the Bears fighting to stay in the game. Josh Faulkner had just knocked down a three-pointer to bring Leetonia within 42-33 when House received a spot-on pass from Durand Winnale and drained a three-pointer. A minute later he scored a layup in transition. The five-point spurt opened up an insurmountable 47-33 lead with just under six minutes left.
"I'm very proud of Caleb," Heartland coach Keith Tate said. "His athleticism is a big asset for us. He's one of the most athletic forwards I've seen this year. He's still developing his basketball IQ, but athletically he came through for us tonight."
In the first quarter, Heartland came out flying around on defense and moving the ball crisply on offense to build a 20-8 lead. However, things stalled out in the second quarter as Leetonia roared back to forge a 27-27 tie at halftime. After being held scoreless in the first frame, guard. Trent Ferry had a big second to spark the comeback.
Ferry finished with 17 points and five rebounds. Forward Josh Faulkner had 17 points and six rebounds.
"We were very sloppy on offense and defense," House said. "We weren't hustling or moving our feet like we did in the first."
"Our turnovers didn't help us," Tate said. "We weren't really strong with the basketball. We were also hoisting up some quick shots. I told the guys they needed to play with more intensity and intelligence in the second half."
The message was received. The Lions re-established the command they had in the first quarter thanks to a particularly strong effort from forward Jared Robinson, who sparked a 12-1 run to put the Lions back in control. Robinson finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.
"Jared got off to a slow start but the last five or six games he has come on strong," Tate said. "He brought a lot of senior leadership tonight and gave us a big lift when we needed it."
The Bears offense mustered only three points in the third quarter and Leetonia never threatened after House put the game away in the fourth.
"We are at a point now where we have to re-assess what we're doing and who we are doing it with," Leetonia coach Eric Whitmer said. "The second quarter was nice, but overall we just made way too many mistakes tonight. We had some silly turnovers and had some issues closing out on their shooters. They are things that can be fixed and we'll get to work."
Leetonia falls to 4-10.
Robinson had eight points and six rebounds in the third quarter alone.
The Bears were outrebounded 21-5 in the second half.
"I was not pleased with our overall effort tonight," Whitmer said. "It was not where it should be. That was the biggest difference in the game I felt."
HEARTLAND SCORING: Jared Robinson 5-1-12, Joel Sirota 1-0-2, Caleb House 7-5-23, Glen Hoffman 4-2-11, Nate Summers 0-0-0, Durand Winnale 0-1-1, Phil Bell 2-1-5, Ben Burgess 0-0-0, Zach Barnes 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 19, 4-8: 54.
LEETONIA SCORING: Isaac Stecker 2-0-4, Shayne Rhodes 0-1-3, Michael Inboden 0-0-0, Trent Ferry 6-3-17, Josh Faulkner 7-1-17, James Shea 0-1-1, Evan Davis 0-0-0, Brett Pacella 0-2-2, Jimmy Knepper 0-0-0, Drew Turney 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 7-15: 44.
Three-point goals: Heartland 4 (House 2, Hoffman, Robinson), Leetonia 5 (Ferry 2, Faulkner 2, Rhodes).