PIQUA— It is not how you start, but how you finish.
And that served the Edison State men’s basketball team well on Saturday against Oakland (Mi.) Community College, as well as for the season so far.
After dropping the first three games of the season, the Chargers got back to .500 with a third straight win — and second over Oakland in eight days — Saturday with an 89-79 victory,
“We had a rough first week of the season,” Edison State men’s basketball coach Kyle Vanover said. “We brought in a couple nationally ranked teams for our tournament. We lost two of our big guys two days before the season started. But, we have won three in a row now. The improvement from the start of the season (has been huge).”
In the first meeting of the two teams — which Edison won by two points — Oakland had played a zone defense.
“We worked on that for three days in practice,” Vanover said. “And of course, they came out in man defense today. I knew that was going to happen, because he is a good coach. I knew they would change things up. But, we have some guys who are good in man or zone.”
And it looked like it would be a little different this time for Edison.
The hot shooting of Jesse Dixon had sparked the Chargers late in the first half.
Dixon had back-to-back 3-pointer to give the Chargers a 42-31 lead at the break and Edison maintained that lead much of the second half. Dixon finished four of five from long range.
“Jesse (Dixon) is a shooter,” Vanover said. “The difference this year is Jesse is letting the shots come to him out of the offense and not forcing things. Because of that, he is more productive.”
Another three by Dixon had Edison up 67-49 midway through the second half and after a run by Oakland, Devonte Curry had five points — including a dime from point guard Ronald Smith for an easy two — the Chargers still led 72-59 with 6:50 to go.
“With the shot clock (30 seconds in college), no lead is safe,” Vanover said. “A lead can dissipate very quickly.”
With less than a minute remaining, Oakland had a steal and was going up for a dunk that would have got the Raiders within 83-80.
But, a foul away from the ball wiped that out and Smith had a basket and four free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
“Ronald (Smith) is becoming a better point guard every game,” Vanover said. “We are a spurty team. Fortunately we had the last run. I am always talking to the kids about needing to play 40 minutes.”
Caleb Iheukwu had another strong game for the Chargers. He had 20 points and eight rebounds, hitting 14 of 15 from the line.
“You know, he has been playing really well,” Vanover said. “They were face guarding him today and he still gave us 20 points. We had four guys in double figures.”
Dixon led the way with 22 points and nine rebounds, Smith had 18 points and five assists and Curry added 16 points and four steals.
Sean Caldwell added eight points.
Edison was 26 of 51 from the floor for 51 percent, including eight of 13 from long range for 62 percent. The Chargers made 29 of 34 free throws for 85 percent.
Oakland made 26 of 59 from the floor for 44 percent, including 13 of 31 from long range for 42 percent. The Raiders 14 of 18 free throws for 78 percent.
Oakland won the battle of the boards 32-29 and had 13 turnovers to Edison’s 14.
Sports Editor Rob Kiser can be reached at [email protected]