Indians Pick up Pair of Wins to Move to 11-3 on Year as Class AA Top-Ranked Fairmont Senior to Visit

By Jeff Toquinto on February 02, 2018 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

UPDATE: Due to closing of schools today, Friday, Feb. 2, the Indians' home game with Fairmont Senior has been changed to Saturday, Feb. 3. Varsity plays at 1:30 p.m., preceded by JV at 11:45 a.m. 
 
Bridgeport picked up two more wins this past week, both in Big 10 Conference play, to move to 11-3. The victories also helped move the Indians to No. 4 in the latest edition of the MetroNews Power Index Poll.
 
The Indians got past Lewis County by a 61-57 score Monday.  The win came after BHS upended Elkins by a 66-49 county last Friday.
 
It was the home game with Lewis County that proved to be a barnburner. The game was close throughout as Bridgeport tailed 13-10 after one period and found itself tied up at 27 at the intermission. Although the Tribe led 44-40 after three, they couldn’t shake the pesky Minutemen.
 
“Early on in the game we were missing point blank shots from two and three feet. We got right to the rim and just kept missing. That gave them momentum and in the dog fight the rest of the game,” said BHS Coach Mike Robey.
 
Robey was correct. The back and forth game continued well into the final eight minutes. In fact, LCHS tied the game at 50 apiece before a 7-0 surge seemed to give BHS a cushion. That wasn’t the case as Lewis got the game back to a one possession affair and had a chance to tie it late before the Indians’ defense finally answered the challenge late.
 
“To our kids’ credit, in the second half, we were finishing better and the rim,” said Robey. “Most important was we played better defense, particularly late. We need to play good defense throughout.”
 
Bridgeport’s offensive attack was led by Jake Bowen with 12 points and Brayden Lesher with 10. Tanner Bifano paced the team with nine rebounds, while Bowen finished with seven. Nick Stalnaker just missed double figures with nine points.
 
“Tanner played particularly well even though he wasn’t a double digit scorer he impacted the game,” said Robey. “In the last five minutes was where he really came up big for us … He was rebounding, clogging  up the lane on defense and hedging ball screens like we’re supposed to and it made a difference.”
 
Against Elkins, Bridgeport jumped out early in the road game and never looked back. The Tribe led 21-10 after one quarter and 38-24 at the intermission. By the time the final period got under way, BHS was in control by a 53-35 score and was never seriously threatened.
 
So how did the Tribe do so well?
 
“Elkins was pressuring us and trying to three quarter court trap us and our kids took the ball to the right spots, got the ball to the center of floor and got a lot of easy buckets early,” said Robey. “That allowed us to establish ourselves inside early, which in turn freed up our shooters who had a good night. It all goes hand in hand.”
 
Lesher led the Indians with 23 points. Bowen finished with 10 and Bifano added eight.
 
“We hit eight 3-point field goals and got contributions from a lot of guys. Tyler Hardesty hit back-to-back 3-pointers for us and Nick Stalnaker had six points in a run in the second quarter,” said Robey. “It’s easier to shoot the ball by getting off good looks when you’re spacing was as good as ours was against Elkins.”
 
The Tribe will find out more tonight about just how they stack up statewide. And they will find out in a big way.
 
Class AA No. 1 Fairmont Senior, who at 14-0 is the only unbeaten left in the classification, comes to Bridgeport tonight – weather permitting – to face the Indians.
 
“To be honest, no one has given them a test. No one has been competitive with them. For us to be the first to do that we’re going to have to take care of the basketball for four quarters,” said Robey. “They run and jump full court constantly on defense and if you manage to beat that they’re aggressive and athletic in their half court sets too on defense. You have to get high percentage shots and you better make them and that’s just the problems they present when you have the ball.”
 
Robey wasn’t lying about the Polar Bears not being tested. The defending Class AA champions have won all of their games by double digits with a 56-45 win against Morgantown their closest outing of the season.
 
“When they have the ball, we have to play solid, help and rotation defense and have all five guys blocking out because if one guy doesn’t, and I’ve seen them play multiple times, that one guy not being blocked out is going to put back any miss they may have,” said Robey. “You’ve got to bring you’re ‘A’ game to beat this team.”
 
Robey said the hype surrounding Fairmont Senior is real. And he said it’s unquestionably the toughest foe that’s on the schedule.
 
“They’re ranked number one for a reason and they’re very deserving of that rank. In my opinion, they won the AA state championship last year and they’re better this year,” said Robey.
 
The Indians will visit Lincoln this coming Wednesday and then visit the state’s No. 2 ranked Class AAA team University next Friday. Those games also will start at 7:30 p.m.
 
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Tanner Bifano powering inside against Lewis County, while Brayden Lesher drives it to the basket in the same game. Bottom photo shows Blake Bowers going up against Fairmont Senior's Zyon Dobbs in last year's BHS-Fairmont Senior game at Bridgeport. Both are back this year as the teams are set to face off tonight in Bridgeport.


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