By Timothy Kays
BRYAN: February 26, 2014 – The late game of the February 26 Bryan D-IV Sectionals was a BBC battle between the North Central Eagles and the Pettisville Blackbirds. Over the past four years, these two teams have developed a rivalry that seems to bring out the best in both squads. As could be expected, it was a hard-fought defensive war where rallies were answered by rallies and neither team backed down. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they were to receive a taste of the medicine that they doled out to Fayette just two nights before as Pettisville’s Korben Rychener scooped up a loose ball with time expiring in overtime and fired off a desperation shot that went in as the buzzer sounded to send the Blackbirds to the D-IV Districts, and send the Eagles home with a 42-40 heartbreaker.
The Eagles’ defense held down the high-speed offense of Pettisville for the first half, opening up a double-digit lead that the Blackbirds were able to trim to eight going into the intermission. The second half saw Pettisville going full-out on team speed and switching defenses, alternating between a trapping man press and a 1-3-1 trapping zone press. At times triple-teaming on traps, Pettisville began to cut into the deficit by forcing turnovers. With the North Central lead cut to three going into the fourth and the game becoming a track meet, the game became a back and forth war that ended tied at 38 at the end of regulation.
Overtime saw much of the same…pedal to the metal back and forth, and with the clock ticking down to zero, a double overtime looked to be in the works. With less than three seconds left in the extra frame and the score knotted at 40-40 though, lightning struck, and the thunder that followed was nothing short of deafening.
The Blackbirds were shopping around for a last shot opportunity against a North Central defense that was more than averse to the idea. The Eagles forced a loose ball in the circle on the Pettisville end, and free-for-all ensued to snap up the ball. Out of the fracas with the ball came Rychener, who circled right, cut to the middle and let fly a runner with 1/10 second remaining. The ball touched nothing but net as the final buzzer was sounding.
The deafening explosion from the Pettisville student cheering section was matched only by the instant heartbreak of North Central, who battled the 2013-14 BBC Champions tooth and nail for four plus quarters, only to fall in the same manner that they had dispatched Fayette.
A teary-eyed Coach Justin Houk of the Eagles talked about the pride that he had in his squad that played defiantly all year long. “About nine games ago, playing Hilltop and down by 19 at halftime. It would have been easy to fold, but we grew up there, realized what we needed to do, and went on to be one shot away from heading to Districts.” That game against Hilltop to which Coach Houk was referring saw the Eagles coming from 19 down to win by a 55-53 score.
Pettisville was led by Rychener and Jeremy Mann with 11 points apiece, and Tate Kauffman with 10. Austin Dykstra posted 6 points, Eli King had 3, and Noah Miller put in a free throw.
North Central seniors Dylan Hutchison, Clayton Ferguson, Branden Turner and Chase Legacy hung up their high tops for the final time after the game. It was Ferguson leading all scorers with 13 for the Eagles, with Hutchison adding 8, and Turner and Jordan Reeves each hitting for 5. Legacy finished with 4 points, Josh Sawyer had 3, and Jordan Bailey had 2 points.
SCORING BY QUARTER:
Pettisville 10 4 12 12 4 – 42
North Central 12 10 7 9 2 – 40
Timothy Kays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org