After One Year Absence, Indians to Return to Class AA State Tournament with Win over Nicholas County

By Jeff Toquinto on March 08, 2018 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

For a little more than two and a half quarters, Bridgeport couldn’t shake Nicholas County in the Class AA, Region II co-final boys’ basketball game this evening at the BHS gymnasium.
 
With a state tournament berth on the line, the Indians finally were able to get rid of the Grizzlies by using an 18-6 run spanning two frames to earn a 58-43 win and a ticket back to Charleston.

The win moves the Indians to 17-7 on the year. The Grizzlies end their season at 15-10. It also moves Bridgeport into the opening round of the state tourney where Tribe has earned a No. 7 seed and will face No. 2 seed Chapmanville who is 24-1 on the year.
 
The Indians were able to land a trip to the dance thanks in large part to the first half play of Jake Bowen and the second half showing of Brayden Lesher.
 
Bowen finished with 14 points – 12 in the first half – and finished with a game-high 16 rebounds. Lesher added 14 points as well, with 10 of his coming after the half.
 
All 10 of Lesher’s points came in what would prove to be a decisive third period.  After Bridgeport jumped in front 25-18, Nicholas’ Luke LeRose scored eight points as part of a 10-4 surge that pulled the visitors to within 29-28.
 
That would be the closest the Grizzlies would come the rest of the game. Lesher helped close out the third period from that point with a 9-3 run where he five scored points and gave the Indians a little bit of breathing room at 38-31 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
 
Nicholas County would get no closer than five and that was on the first possession of the final segment. Instead of faltering, the Tribe patiently ran sets and forced Nicholas into a situation where the guests had to foul.  Blake Bowers’ two free throws made it 51-37 midway through the quarter to cap the decisive 18-6 surge that completely put the game into the Tribe’s favor and resulted in a free throw parade late for the hosts.
 
Once BHS got to the foul line they made Nicholas County pay.  BHS hit on 14-of-18 free throws in the final quarter and refused to let the Grizzlies climb back into the game.
 
Bridgeport’s biggest lead was the 15-point advantage at the end of the game that came on a Nick Stalnaker free throw. BHS had the same spread moments earlier when Jacob Perine also knocked down a foul shot.
 
Bowers would finish with eight points for the Tribe. Perine added seven off the bench. Luke LeRose led Nicholas County with 20 and was the only player in double figures for his squad.
 
While the win seemed comfortable, it proved to be anything but that. And it was the case throughout the entire first half and well into the second.
 
Despite holding the lead, the first quarter wasn’t a work of art for Bridgeport. The Tribe led 10-9 after the first eight minutes, but hurt their chances to be up more by committing seven turnovers that included several of the unforced variety.
 
Thanks to the sloppy play, the contest proved to be a back and forth affair. There were six lead changes in the frame with BHS holding the final advantage at 10-9 thanks to an offensive rebound and put back by Bowen.
 
Bowen proved to be the one catalyst the Indians could lean on in the first half. After Nicholas County went up 11-10 on a LeRose lay-up to start the second quarter, Bowen assert himself and led the Indians on a 10-2 run.
 
The junior forward scored eight points during the spurt that left the Tribe up 20-13. Unfortunately for BHS, it seemed as if as soon as the outburst occurred it ended. More turnovers, missed free throws and miscues on both ends of the floor allowed Nicholas County to remain in the game at 20-16 at the half despite scoring just seven points in the quarter.
 
Bowen led the way with 12 points, while no other player had more than four points in the first quarters. Bowen also pulled down 10 rebounds in the first 16 minutes. Tanner Huffman and LeRose both had five points in the first 16 minutes.
 
The first half saw a total of eight led changes. The biggest lead by the Tribe was seven at 20-13, while NCHS’s biggest lead was two points on two different occasions – the last coming on a Huffman 3-point that made the score 7-5 early midway through the first quarter.
 
Bridgeport hurt 10 first half turnovers. Nicholas had just four in the opening half.
 
Click HERE for the rest of the Class AA pairings. Philip Barbour and Fairmont Senior from the Big 10 are also in the field with the Polar  Bears the No. 1 seed and the Colts the No. 4 seed.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Jake Bowen driving against the Nicholas County defense, while Brayden Lesher squares up for a 3-point attempt in the bottom picture. Photos by Joey Signorelli of www.benqueenphotography.com.


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