Belvidere’s win over Jefferson last month was the highlight of their season. They were hoping to play the spoiler again last Wednesday night. This time, the J-Hawks were more than ready for Belvidere. With the home gym advantage, three starters taller than the tallest Belvidere player and a reason to extract revenge, the J-Hawks overwhelmed Belvidere, 63 – 45.
Jefferson started the scoring, making their first basket in the first 15 seconds of the game. Belvidere began their normal game, passing the ball ten times before trying a three-point shot. Anthony Goransen grabbed the rebound and Adam Heaton scored two points on the second attempt. Goransen scored the second points for the Bucs and gave them a brief lead. Jefferson came back with a number of shots. Not many of them made it in, but they were fierce in the paint and were able to grab several rebounds. Matt Barr stole the ball away from Jefferson, but they stole it right back. Jason Fiske found a three pointer to tie the score with three minutes left on the clock. But the J-Hawks answered with a three pointer of their own. The Bucs were unable to get anything going inside and they were only able to score one more point when Anthony Goransen was fouled near the end of the quarter. Still it was only a six point game at the buzzer.
The Bucs were able to slow the pace of the game in the second period, but unable to gain any ground. Jason Fiske made two free throws after being fouled, but Jefferson pulled the Bucs out of their core defense around the basket and Robert Eppinger dunked the ball. Another score from under the basket prompted a Belvidere timeout to regroup. While the Bucs were able to guard 6’10” center Pat Nelson and take him out of the J-Hawks offense for a time, that left no one to cover Eppinger, the J-Hawks leading scorer. The Bucs offense stalled, attempting only eleven shots in the entire period. Adam Heaton stole the ball and ran it down court for a two point lay-up. Nick Wirth found a two point shot late in the half to bring the game within eight.
The Bucs fought back in the third quarter, going on an 11 – 3 run by showing some quickness on the boards. When Adam Heaton’s shot was blocked by Eppinger, Anthony Goransen grabbed the rebound. Heaton got a second chance and made the two point shot over Pat Nelson. Goransen grabbed a pass from Matt Barr and looped it in from behind the net as he was going out of bounds. On the other end of the court, he grabbed a rebound on a missed shot by the J-Hawks. A quick pass to Jason Fiske resulted in a lay-up at the other end of the court and the game was tied at 32 a piece. Jefferson took a time out to regroup. The game stayed close until 2:30 left in the period. Branden Fisher was able to get around the Bucs perimeter and split the defense wide open for a straight shot at the basket. He scored three times on that same play before the Bucs could come up with a way to trap him. By then, it was too late. The Bucs finished the third period down by nine.
The Bucs got frustrated halfway through the fourth quarter as the game slipped away. Belvidere took a time out to figure out some new defensive moves, but as before, Jefferson was able to find someone else to make the shots. The Bucs were forced to foul good shooters like Robert Eppinger and Branden Fisher to get the ball back. Unfortunately, the Bucs were unable to score, but the J-Hawks were able to make all of their free throws. Jefferson’s lead jumped from ten to as much as twenty two. The Bucs finished the game with a couple of rare lay-up scores by Tyler Pearse to finish 63 – 45 losers.
With the loss, the Bucs finished 10 – 6 in the NIC-9, good enough for fourth place. Their 16 – 12 record is their first outright winning season since the 1972 – 73 season. After the New Year, the Bucs went 10 – 4, and picked up a fourth seed in the opening round of the regional tournament. They played fifth seed Auburn on Wednesday. The results were unavailable at press time.
However, the winner of that game will go on to play the NIC-9 champion Boylan Titans at Boylan High School Friday night. Boylan (14 – 1 in the NIC-9) beat Harlem on Tuesday night 62 – 46 to advance to second round. The game starts at 7:30 pm.