By Rob Potter
ELDRED January 29, 2008 A strong performance in the second half and four-minute overtime session propelled the Eldred Yellowjackets to victory on Friday night.
Eldred rallied from a 31-23 halftime deficit and outscored Chester 8-4 in overtime to post a 66-62 victory in a non-league basketball game.
The dramatic final moments of the fourth quarter and OT had fans of both teams sitting on the edge of their seats.
Eldred’s Chris Leader forced the contest into overtime when he rebounded a missed shot and then put the ball back up and in the basket. Leader’s shot knotted the score at 58-58 with just 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Chester (5-9) had an opportunity to win in regulation, however.
With two seconds remaining, two opposing players grabbed the basketball and the officials ruled that both players had possession. The possession arrow favored Chester and Coach Jason Closs quickly called a timeout to set up a final play for his team.
Chester’s Ray Garcia caught the inbounds pass and quickly launched a shot from halfcourt. The ball hit the backboard and bounced away from the basket as the buzzer sounded.
The Hambletonians took a 60-58 lead with 3:34 left in overtime when Ryan Growe made a pair of free throws.
Eldred (5-6) grabbed a 61-60 advantage when John Scully swished a 3-pointer at the 2:46 mark.
With 1:38 remaining, Bobby Moriggia hit a jump shot to push the Yellowjackets’ lead to 63-60.
But Chester pulled to within a point when Joe Salthouse scored inside the lane 15 seconds later.
The Yellowjackets sealed their victory at the free-throw line.
With just one second displayed on the scoreboard, Scully was fouled. He made his first free throw to give Eldred a 64-62 lead.
Scully missed his second shot, but teammate Mike Walton grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Since the officials called the foul before that last second elapsed and Eldred was in the double bonus, Walton attempted two free throws. He made them both, much to the delight of the hometown fans.
After being down eight points at the intermission and then by 12 points three minutes into the second half, Eldred rallied as the third quarter continued. Scully scored five points and Moriggia had four points as the Yellowjackets went on a 9-0 run to pull within a point (37-36) with 2:30 left in the period.
Scully paced the Yellowjackets’ offensive attack with a game-high 26 points, including a trio of 3-point shots.
Moriggia finished the night with 16 points, while Jason Jennings and Kojo Williams added seven points apiece for Eldred.
“The thing I am most happy about tonight is our effort on defense,” Eldred Coach Charlie Donnelly said. “For us to be successful, we need a complete, 100 percent effort on defense throughout the game. In the second half tonight, we really picked up our defense.”
He also praised the Hambletonians for their performance.
“Chester played a very good game and Jason [Closs] does a nice job with those players,” Donnelly said. “They outrebounded us in the first half and played hard the whole game.”
Chester had a balanced offense with three players scoring in double figures. Salthouse led the way with 21 points, Matt Thomas netted 15 points and Justin Hernandez recorded 13 points.
Growe chipped in nine points for the Hambletonians.
During the first half and into the third quarter, Chester used a 1-2-2 zone defense with success.
“It worked well, but we had to come out of it when they started to make some shots,” Closs said. “They started to heat up in the third and fourth quarters.
“My hat’s off to Eldred,” he continued. “They were able to make shots when they needed to and won the game.”