Bucs Survive East Challenge

To get to the gymnasium at Rockford East, one must walk down a paneled hall, covered in pictures of league leading players and championship teams from all manner of sports.  This year’s E-rabs were winless coming into the game last Friday night, but they were able to channel the spirit of those elder athletes and challenge Belvidere throughout the game.  In the end, however, the Bucs marshaled some spirit of their own and through perseverance, held off the East challenge.
East scored twice in the first minute, taking an early lead.  The Bucs battled for ball control; catching several offensive rebounds for second-try shots.  Still, the E-rabs jumped out to a 7 – 2 lead with 5:24 left in the first period.  Belvidere started working their way back into the game, starting with a pair of free throws by George Waddell.  East missed a three pointer and Dustin Boardman grabbed the rebound.  Jack Adams shot for two, made it and was fouled.  His free throw tied the game at seven.  The E-rabs pulled ahead again with a pair of three point scores.  The Bucs responded with a three of their own by Dustin Boardman.  Boardman was fouled on a two pointer and made the free throw.  The game tied up again at 15 with less than two minutes to go.  Adam Cox went one for two at the free throw line, enough to give the Bucs their first lead of the night.  Dustin Boardman grabbed another rebound, Cox converted it to two.  But the E-rabs weren’t done yet; Chris King took it inside with a lay up, bringing East up to within one at the end of the first period.
The Bucs made some adjustments and spread out their offense across the court.  A quick pass to Brandon Codina standing unguarded under the basket gave the Bucs a 20 – 17 lead to start things off in the second period.  Belvidere also continued their dominance of the boards and began to pull away, leading 27 – 20 with four minutes left in the half.  But East came right back, grabbing some rebounds of their own.  The Bucs were held scoreless for two minutes except for a single free throw.  Gregory Appleton’s three pointer got East within one again before Wade Mootrey took a pass inside and scored for the Bucs with 1:59 to play.  Both teams went after the ball, no matter where it was.  The aggressive play gave East a chance to take the lead going into halftime, but there was a foul with 6.2 seconds left.  Dustin Boardman went to the foul line and made both his shots and the Bucs were able to go to the locker room tied up at 35.
Belvidere didn’t get out to the court again until literally the last minute, not even taking time to make a few practice shots.  It paid off as the Bucs established control and baskets by Dustin Boardman and Josh Easley gave the Bucs the lead once again.  East took a time out to think things over.  While they stayed competitive, the Bucs looked to be wearing them down, taking most of the rebounds and leading 51 – 45 going into the final period.
The E-rabs stepped up their aggressive play, literally jumping on the Bucs twice going for the ball.  While Belvidere kept their cool for awhile, it came to a head when the Bucs decided to retaliate with a smack down.  They were called on it; Dominic Fricks made two of three shots from the line and cut the Bucs lead to four.  Gregory Appleton cut the lead to one with a three point shot with 4:12 left in the game.  From there, it was a flat out race as the two teams combined for twenty points in the last three minutes of the game.  Lance Shirley scored on a steal for East.  Dustin Boardman responded with two of his own, but Antonio Brooks made a three less than fifteen seconds later.  Lance Shirley tied the game at 61 with 1:46 left in the game.  The crowd came to life, roaring their approval.  Dustin Boardman made two shots at the foul line.  East lost the ball and Boardman came up with it, lobbed it across the court to George Waddell waiting under the basket.  Ten seconds left.  Antonio Brooks got the ball inbounds, made a three point shot and the score was 65 – 64.  East managed to stop the clock with 2.9 seconds left and for a long thirty seconds, the crowd chanted and the gym was alive with the spirit of sixty years of East fans.  However, that was as close as they would get.  The nail biter concluded with a pass inbound to Josh Easley.  He held off being challenged and managed to pass it to George Waddell before he was fouled.  The last second fell off the clock and the game was over.  The Bucs escaped with a 65 – 64 win.
The Bucs are 4 – 1 in the NIC-9, good enough for third place behind undefeated Boylan and Guilford.  They wrap up the year with a series of games in DeKalb in the annual Chuck Dayton tournament.  Results were unavailable at press time.  The Bucs return to NIC-9 play on January 6th, hosting Guilford.  The game starts at 7:30.


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