Bridgeport Wins Rubber Match against RCB to Capture Class AA Region II, Section 1 Championship

By Jeff Toquinto on March 03, 2018 via

Bridgeport rallied from a fourth quarter deficit and won the rubber match and, more importantly, the Class AA Region II, Section 1 championship with a 53-44 victory against rival Robert C. Byrd at the McDonnel Center on the campus of Davis & Elkins College this evening.
The victory moves Bridgeport to 16-7 on the year. RCB drops to 13-8. The two teams split the regular season series by winning games on their respective home floors. Both teams, however, are still alive.
Regional final games will be held next Thursday. Robert C. Byrd plays at Braxton County, the winner of the Region II, Section 2 tournament by a 68-54 score against Nicholas County. Bridgeport is scheduled to host the Grizzlies this Thursday, but that site could change if the work stoppage involving teachers continues.
Bridgeport won the game thanks to its late play and ability to hit free throws. The Indians finished 21-of-28 from the line, including 6-of-8 in the final minute to put the game away. Robert C. Byrd finished 6-of-8 at the line.
The Indians had to rally from an eight-point third quarter deficit as well as being behind four in the final frame to get the win. The Indians headed into the game’s fourth quarter down 34-32 and were quickly down 35-32 early in the frame before Brayden Lesher tied it with a transition 3-point field goal – the Tribe’s first triple of the game – at 35 apiece.
Robert C. Byrd didn’t let the basket phase it. RCB went on a on a 6-2 run to lead 41-37 when Gavin Kennedy got a layup off of a wild sequence of turnovers by both teams.
It was at this point where the Indians put the game away with a 16-3 surge to close out the contest. The Tribe started fighting back and it was junior point guard Blake Bowers, who battled foul trouble throughout that led the way.
RCB’s last lead came after a pair of free throws by Nate Helm that made it 43-42. That was followed by an 18-footer by Jake Bowen who put the Tribe up for good at 44-43.
After the Indians got possession back, Bowers hit what may have been the biggest shot of the game. He got open on the left side of the floor and buried a 3-point field goal for a 47-43 BHS advantage. The Eagles would score one more point the rest of the way and the Tribe iced it at the foul line.
Bowen would finish with 12 points, including 10 in the second half. Lesher added 11 points and Bowers scored nine – eight in the final eight minutes. Tanner Bifano finished with 10 rebounds.
RCB was led by Gavin Kennedy and Khori Miles with 11 points each. Tre Junkins led the Eagles with seven rebounds.
The Indians led 11-8 after one, but probably didn’t feel as good about the early advantage as they may have wanted to. The Tribe led 11-6 with less than a half minute to go thanks to strong inside play led by a pair of buckets from Bifano.
BHS appeared to be in good shape and looking for the final shot up by five. However, a turnover with just seconds to go instead turned into a buzzer-beating layup by Bryson Lucas that made the game 11-8 after one quarter of action.
The momentum from the late steal carried into the second period and, in particular, with Miles. Miles scored the Eagles’ first six points to finally put his team up 14-13.
After that, the rest of the period was woeful offensively with turnovers and missed shots. Bridgeport managed to regain the lead late at 18-16, but the only 3-point field by either team in the first half – courtesy of Lucas – with under a minute to play gave the Eagles their second lead of the half at 19-18.
The basket would be the last of the half. The Indians would miss two more shots, including a desperation shot before halftime, and the Eagles misfired on one more possession as well.
Bridgeport struggled against Robert C. Byrd’s pressure defense. The Tribe committed 13 first half turnovers in the game’s first 16 minutes. In the second half, the Indians had just six turnovers.
While the game may not have been a work of art early, it remained close through three quarters and into the late stages of the fourth. And that was the case despite the fact RCB several times appeared to be ready to put some distance between itself and the Indians in the third frame.
The Eagles scored the first seven points of the third quarter to go up 26-18 on a Kennedy 3-pointer. Bridgeport, who never led in the frame, would answer back with a 10-4 surge led by Bowen’s four points that made it 30-28. Eventually, the Eagles would hold onto a 34-32 lead as three quarters were completed.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows BHS during the pre-game National Anthem. Second photo, a file shot, shows the Indians' two leading scorers, Jake Bowen, right, and Brayden Lesher looking for a rebound during the regular season game at RCB. Bottom photo shows BHS Principal Mark DeFazio, left, and RCB Principal Steve Gibson, right, prior to the game. All photos by Joey Signorelli of

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