The Bucs were on the road last weekend, taking on two NIC-9 rivals on their respective home courts. The Bucs hit Auburn Friday night. The Bucs started slow and Auburn got on the board first. Keenen Knowles stole the ball away and took it all the way for a lay-up in the opposite basket. Tim Ryan got the game tied at two apiece, but the next two minutes were all Auburn. The Knights were able to capitalize on a couple of bad passes by the Bucs to take an 8 – 2 lead. While Auburn was unable to get in deep on Belvidere, they were able to push in a little beyond the perimeter; good enough for two scores. The Bucs took a time out to regroup across from the very vocal Auburn crowd. While Dustin Boardman made two free throws, the Knights were able to increase their lead to ten with some quick plays designed to get inside the Belvidere defense. The Bucs weren’t taking many shots and didn’t make a basket until Matt Barr scored with 2:02 left in the first quarter. The Knights scored again to make it 16 – 6, but the Bucs were coming to life. Barr found a shot on the perimeter for another two points. Auburn took it back the other way, but Avery Johnson lost control of the ball, wrestling with Brandon Smaha. Jump ball. The Knights regained possession missed the shot and the Bucs grabbed the rebound. Their shot also missed. With 10 seconds left in the quarter, A.J. Bonner crossed the court for a two point lay up to make it an 18 – 8 game with less than a second on the clock. If this were football season, the play would have been called a Hail Mary. Matt Barr lobbed the ball inbounds, bounced it off the backboard and into the hands of Aaron Leonard standing under the basket. He scored as the buzzer sounded, bringing the thin crowd of Bucs supporters to life for the first time since the band played the Belvidere Fight Song before the game started.
The Bucs were on a mission. Their defense tightened up inside and took advantage of opportunities where they could get them. When Johnson lost a rebound, Matt Barr picked it up. A quick succession of passes got the ball to Aaron Leonard waiting under the basket for two points. Leonard grabbed a rebound, passed it to Barr who returned the favor, passed the ball back to Leonard to drive in for a two point shot. A foul put Matt Barr on the free throw line. Auburn took a time out, but the Bucs continued to creep closer. With four minutes left, Barr scored again from the outside to bring the Bucs within three points. After a missed shot, David Howe grabbed the offensive rebound and scored, drawing a foul in the process. He made the shot and the Bucs were down by two. The Knights were frustrated by their inability to get inside the perimeter. And the Bucs continued to work the boards both on offense and defense. At the two minute mark, Howe grabbed the rebound after a missed shot by Auburn. He passed to Tim Ryan who took it out of the back court. Barr, Chad Schwebke and Brandon Codina were waiting at the edges and passed the ball back and forth until Barr found a shot and tied the game at 24 apiece. Time was running out. The Knights got the ball back, but pushed it too fast, losing control of the ball. The Bucs got it back, missed the shot, got the rebound and missed a three pointer. Montairo Hopson picked up the ball with less than 30 seconds in the half, ran down the court, but missed. Schwebke was there for the rebound. The Bucs passed the ball around the perimeter as the clock wound down. Finally, Barr moved in. He missed the shot, but was fouled. All evening, the crowd had jeered every time he got the ball, but Matt Barr was finally able to silence them. He made both free throws and the Bucs had their first lead in the game, 26 – 24, to end the half.
Auburn made some adjustments at halftime. In the first half, the Knights spread their defense out, often times dogging the Bucs as they tried to take the ball inbounds. As the half went on, that allowed the Bucs to get inside with superior numbers. Auburn switched to guarding the inside shot. While that locked the Bucs out of the paint, Dustin Boardman and David How were both able to find shots from farther out and extend the Bucs lead. Auburn took a time out to regroup. Deauntae Tatum grabbed a rebound after a Bucs shot. Kwan Waller found a shot from the left side. The Bucs got it back, but not for long. Keenen Knowles stole the ball away and was fouled. He made both his free throws and tied the game with 5:02 left in the third period. Both teams stepped up to get the ball and do something with it. The Bucs lost it out of bounds; Auburn recovered but lost it under their basket on the way back. Auburn fouled and Belvidere got the ball. A three point attempt was no good. The Bucs rebounded, but Keenen Knowles stole the ball again. His shot was no good. Brandon Codina got the rebound, but ten seconds later Knowles stole the ball from the Bucs again, passing it to Darryl Watkins for a lay up. The Bucs took a full time out to catch their breath. As the third quarter wound down, each possession was a battle. Matt Barr tied the game up with a pair of free throws. After Auburn lost the ball, Barr recovered and went the distance for two points and the Bucs had the lead again. Auburn tied it up again. Tim Ryan took the ball inbounds, drove in and scored to make it 36 – 34. Waller found a three point shot to regain the lead a moment later. With less than 14 seconds on the clock, the Bucs took the ball inbounds. Tim Ryan and B14 passed back and forth to draw off defenders. It worked. Barr passed to Dustin Boardman who was waiting unguarded inside for a two point score and the lead.
While Auburn never regained the lead, the Bucs didn’t dare bring down their guard. Auburn was very quick and both defenses tightened up. Neither side had many opportunities. However, when they did, the Bucs made the most of them while Auburn was plagued by some bad decisions. Down 46 – 43, Keenen Knowles stole the ball once more and passed to Tatum who attempted a slam dunk. The dunk missed, but he was fouled. Tatum had one shot and a bonus (if the first one made it). He missed the first and didn’t get a second. Meanwhile, the Bucs were able to increase their lead with free throws by Barr, Tim Ryan, Aaron Leonard and Brandon Smaha. In the final minute, the Bucs were fouled five times and made seven out of ten shots, giving them a comfortable 59 – 49 victory.
The Bucs were hoping to use the momentum of the wins against East and Auburn on Saturday night when they traveled to Guilford. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The Vikings dominated the offense in the first quarter. Only poor shooting accuracy kept the score from getting out of hand. The Bucs tried to slow the tempo of the game, but the aggressive defense of the Guilford team forced several turnovers. The taller Vikings players owned the real estate under the basket, grabbing the lion’s share of the rebounds. Brandon Smaha scored twice and made two free throws in the first to keep the Bucs within 3 points. However, the Vikings opened up the second period with a 9 – 0 run. Their defense played full court. The Bucs could barely get the ball inbounds before being swarmed by two or three Guilford players. They stripped the ball twice before the Bucs took a timeout to regroup. The Bucs were down 30 – 19 at the half.
Belvidere was slow to come back in the second half. They returned to the court right before the third period and didn’t have a chance to practice. Dustin Boardman kicked off the scoring with a two point shot, but that was the last inside shot they would make that period. The swarming Guilford players made sure the ball stayed on their side of the court as much as possible. The Bucs were forced to spread their defense to cover the outside shots, but then the Vikings quickly adjusted their game and scored from unguarded positions in the paint. Matt Barr found a three point shot as did Dustin Boardman, but the fourth period started with them down 45 – 29. Belvidere was never able to get back into the game, never getting closer than down by 13 points. Nathan Hyland came into the game late in the fourth and took the ball inside for two points with 1:10 left, but that was it for the Bucs. The final score was 64 – 38.
The Bucs are traveling to DeKalb for the annual Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament. Belvidere takes on the 3 – 6 McHenry Warriors Friday morning at 11:30. They are back on the court on Monday afternoon, playing the Huntley Red Raiders (3 – 3) at 3:00.