By Ted Waddell
GRAHAMSVILLE January 15, 2008 Things were looking pretty rosy for the Tri-Valley Bears in the early going of Thursday night’s non-league basketball game versus the visiting Sullivan West Bulldogs.
At the end of first quarter, the Bears enjoyed a 21-8 lead.
But in the fast-paced second period, SW (7-5 overall, 0-2 OCIAA) started to give the Bears notice that they weren’t out of the running. The Bulldogs made several steals and converted a bunch of 3-point shots to reduce their deficit to just two points (24-22) at halftime.
SW (7-5) then outscored T-V 16-10 in the third period and 16-15 in the fourth quarter to record a 54-49 win.
As the second half unfolded, and the Bulldogs closed to within four several times, only to watch T-V (5-5) respond by pushing its advantage back to 10 points. But SW started to find its range, and the shots started falling.
At 3:31 in the fourth period, T-V was still in the driver’s seat 49-45, but then things began to unravel. A putback by SW’s R.J. Rosa tied the game at 49-49 with 2:37 remaining.
In a fierce battle for possession under the boards, SW’s Justin Armstrong was fouled. He came up short at the free throw line, but Chris Story grabbed the rebound and put the ball back up and through the net to put the Bulldogs up 51-49.
As the large crowd on both sides of the bench erupted in support of their respective teams, fate intervened with back-to-back steals. The Bears stole the ball from the Bulldogs, but only microseconds later Rosa returned the favor and snatched it away from the paws of the Bears.
With 45.7 seconds left on the game clock, Rosa stepped up under tremendous pressure and the deafening roar of the fans, and iced a 3-point jumper to seal a big “W” for the Bulldogs.
Four players had at least 10 points as SW used a balanced scoring attack on its way to victory. Story led the Bulldogs with 17 points, Jason Leewe had 14 points (including a pair of 3-pointers) and Rosa and Brad Reimer each registered 10 points.
Bo Murphy and Bruce Moore paced the T-V offense. Murphy had a game-high 23 points, while Moore netted 11 points. Tim Martin added nine points for the Bears.
“I liked the first half better than the second half,” T-V Coach Brian Tingley said. “The Sullivan West kids stepped it up a little bit.”
He said that his team has a tendency to get a little impatient offensively, making one pass and hoping that’s a scoring effort “instead of running through some offense.
“I think the kids defer too much to Bo Murphy, which we have to change,” Tingley added. “If we’re going to do anything later on, we’re going to have to be more versatile.”
Tingley credited the inside play of SW’s Story. But Tingley also noted that Moore did a good job of defending Story in the first quarter.
SW Coach Cliff Kelly said his players tried to stop Murphy “but to no avail.”
Kelly’s take on the game?
“We went cold, had a hard time shooting early on and didn’t run completely through our offense,” he said. “In the second half, the key is that 10 [-point barrier]. Once you break that 10, you feel like you’re in it… Tri-Valley just didn’t go away.
“They had some tough breaks on their part, and we made some decent shots,” Kelly added.