ST. CLAIR TWP. — All that Colton Hunt wanted was to get back out on the basketball court as soon as he could.
The Edgewood High School senior guard wasn’t satisfied watching his teammates from the sideline during the first half of the Cougars’ season.
But now eight games in after having knee surgery earlier this winter, Hunt is providing the boost Edgewood needed all along.
Hunt tied a career-high 12 points and was a big part of a Cougar 24-0 run in the first half, Brayden Smith had a team-high 15 points and Edgewood held off Talawanda 52-49 on Tuesday night in Southwest Ohio Conference action.
“I just want to help out this team the best I can,” Hunt said. “I’m not in the best shape of my life coming back, and defense is usually my best aspect. But I’ve been doing a lot of form shooting at practices when I really couldn’t move. It’s really been helping me.”
Edgewood (4-12, 3-4 SWOC) snapped a three-game losing streak, beat Talawanda for a fourth straight time and hacked at the Brave’s chances of snagging a piece of the SWOC title.
Logan Smith scored 21 points and had 11 rebounds — both game highs — for Talawanda, which relinquished an 8-0 lead before Edgewood’s lengthy first-half scoring spree. Isaiah Meade-Moss added 16 points for the Brave.
Senior guard Evan Swartz started — and capped off — the 24-0 run for the Cougars, and Hunt tallied 10 of his points during that span.
“I’m still kind of without words on it,” Talawanda coach Connor Roberts said. “We just shut down for a moment — more than a moment. It was turnovers, slow cutting, not a lot of urgency. The defense was fine. The turnovers led to offense for them. So it was more of us on the offensive end turning the basketball over, which gave them a lot of confidence.”
Talawanda (9-6, 4-3 SWOC) gave the ball up 13 times and was held scoreless for 9:40 in the first half.
“It’s tough. You start off up 8-0, and I think the guys got a little too happy, energetic and thought it was going to be given to them,” Roberts said. “Edgewood’s got tough kids. They always do. … They’re always going to battle back. They battled, and then they kept battling. Then eventually you go into halftime and our guys are like, ‘Geesh, this is where we’re at.’”
Sophomore Cale Leitch hit a 3-pointer to halt Edgewood’s run, but the Cougars had already built a 24-11 lead with 3:30 left until the half.
“We needed that,” Edgewood coach Jason Osterman said. “We didn’t come out ready to play. It’s just something we’ve struggled with, whether it’s the first half or the second half. Tonight I think it was both halves where we didn’t come out ready to go.”
Osterman called a quick timeout once his Cougars were down in the early going. Edgewood then blew things open, grabbed its largest lead (30-13) at halftime and never trailed the rest of the way.
“We sent five new guys in there and they gave us some energy,” Osterman said. “We just got some good energy, started moving the ball and getting high percentage shots.”
But Talawanda marched back with a 17-2 run, cutting Edgewood’s lead to 42-41 on a Meade-Moss bucket with 6:01 left in the fourth quarter.
Osterman called another timeout to get his Cougars regrouped.
Brayden Smith reeled off seven straight points to put Edgewood back up 49-41 with 3:29 left to play. The Cougars wouldn’t hit another bucket, yet they relied on 4 of 5 free throws down the stretch.
“It was just our motion offense,” Osterman said. “We went four-out, one-in with (Brayden Smith), and we had a bigger lineup. He had a mismatch on him, and he did a good job of sealing his guy and finishing around the rim. He made some free throws tonight, too, which was huge.”
Logan Smith scored six points in the final three minutes to pull Talawanda to within three, but a last-second, off-balanced 3-pointer by Brave senior guard Malyki McRoberts missed the side of the rim and bounced off the backboard as time expired.
Both teams shot well from the floor — with Edgewood firing 20 of 40 (50%) and Talawanda going 19 of 37 (51.4%).
Swartz finished with 10 points and senior Jake Valerio grabbed a team-high five rebounds for the Cougars, who beat the Brave in the first meeting in Oxford — also by three points — 49-46 on Dec. 16.
Both teams get back to action on Friday. Talawanda hosts Mount Healthy, while Edgewood travels to Ross.