After the Bucs battled Boylan at Boylan High School the weekend before, it could be assumed the game against the Hononegah Indians would be hard fought and a close game. After they beat Belvidere North at the home of the Blue Thunder, it could be expected that the basement dwelling J-Hawks would not much of a chance against the Bucs.
So much for conventional wisdom.
The Bucs fought a back and forth battle for ball control in the first minutes of the game. Belvidere’s three point shooting gave them a 17 – 11 lead with about six minutes to play. But the J-Hawks played with surprising speed. While their passing was a bit inaccurate, they battled back to end the first period 17 – 15.
The Bucs pulled ahead early in the second period, taking the rebounds to make second, third and even fourth tries for the basket. Brandon Fowler was fouled and went to the line and made both shots. The J-Hawks found a man unguarded inside for two, but the Bucs drew a foul again. Moe Shahbain went to the line and made two more. Jefferson tried to work the clock, but the Bucs stole the ball away. The J-Hawks took a time out with 5:34 to regroup. It didn’t help. On the inbound, the Bucs scored on a quick lay up. However, the Bucs seemed to lose some momentum. In the last three minutes of the period, the J-Hawks took control as the Bucs missed passes and overthrew, their rebounding vanished. On the other side, Jefferson took advantage and cut the Belvidere lead. With 13 seconds left on the clock, the J-Hawks were fouled and went to the line. They made one of two to tie the game at 34. The Bucs got the ball inbounds, but lost it to Jefferson. A fast break lay up and the J-Hawks headed to the locker room up 36 – 34 at halftime.
It was more of the same in the third period as Jefferson continued to capitalize on the weak shooting of the Bucs and basically took control of the game. They extended their lead and were up by as much as fifteen. The Bucs finally broke their scoring drought near the end as Wade Mootrey scored two up close and Moe Shahbain made a jump shot before being flattened. He went to the line, made a free throw and left the game for a bit.
Going into the fourth period, it was still Jefferson’s game, 64 – 50 with less than six minutes to go. The Bucs defense shut down the J-Hawks inside game and grabbed a number of rebounds. At first, the Bucs shooting was still cold, but in the final four minutes, the offense sprang to life. Josh Easley and Moe Shahbain both made three point shots that brought the crowd to their feet and the Bucs within 5 points. The J-Hawks took a timeout to regroup.
The Bucs kept pouring it on in a team effort that held the J-Hawks scoreless for two minutes. They caught the J-Hawks and passed them by with thirteen seconds left on the clock. The J-Hawks had one last chance to at least tie the game up, but the Bucs wrested control of the ball as the time ran out to give them a 74 – 71 victory.
Compared to the emotional and physically draining victory on Friday, the gym seemed subdued on Saturday night. Belvidere had no cheerleaders and the fans didn’t get many chances to cheer either. Hononegah came into town and while the Bucs were able to stay with the Indians for most of the first period, the Indians just had too many weapons. Belvidere shut down their inside game, but the Indians started draining three point shots. On the defensive side, Hononegah’s quicklness allowed them to steal the ball away from the Bucs, racing down the court for quick two point shots. Down 40 – 19 at the half, the Bucs did make some rallies through the second half, but all were quickly crushed in one fashion or another. The Bucs could never get much more than within 20 points of the Indians. In the closing minutes, with the starters done for the night, there was a lot of physical play. The Bucs reserves played hard, Tim Ballenger scored the last points for Belvidere, but it was too little, too late. The game ended with the Bucs down 92 – 60.
The Bucs play a single away game this weekend, traveling to Harlem High School to take on the Huskies. The game begins at 7:30 pm.