SWANTON– In the second game at Swanton High School on Tuesday, February 28th, Buckeye Border Conference, as well as Fulton County rivals, Fayette and Pettisville met for the third time this season. As the old adage goes, “It’s hard to beat a team three times”, held true. The Eagles overcame early turnovers, utilized their ball control offense, and took advantage of poor shooting by the Blackbirds to emerge with a 41-34 triumph to advance to the Sectional finals.
Both teams struggled to find the basket in the opening quarter. It wasn’t until 3:19 remained in the period that Pettisville’s Dillon King dropped in a free throw to break the scoring drought. Detric Yoder added a bucket off an offensive rebound, then Graeme Jacoby scored off a lob from Justin Rupp to give the Blackbirds a 5-0 lead with 1:20 left in the period.
Austin Lopez finally got the Eagles on the board, but that was it for the quarter as the scoreboard read 5-2 as the buzzer sounded.
The first period can best be described as ugly. Fayette turned the ball over an uncharacteristic six times, and went 1-7 shooting. While Pettisville took much better care of the ball committing just one miscue, their aim was slightly better as they finished 2-11 from the field.
Trey Keefer opened the second stanza with a basket on the right side of the key to make it 5-4. Gabe Beck answered for Pettisville with a nice turn-around jumper in the lane. Clayton Pheils knocked down a triple from the top of the key to knot the score at 7 all. With 3:30 left before halftime, Yoder responded for the Blackbirds with a trey, also from the top of the key. That proved to be the final score of the half as both teams continued their shooting woes, and turnovers.
As both teams headed to opposite sides of the gym to their locker rooms, Pettisville held a slim 10-7 advantage. Undoubtedly both coaching staffs had a lot of offensive adjustments to discuss.
The second quarter wasn’t a whole lot prettier to watch. The half ended with Pettisville making just 4 of 21 field goal attempts for 19%, while committing 4 turnovers. Fayette was equally as inefficient converting on only 3-18 shots for 16%, and added 8 miscues.
Fayette mentor, Todd Mitchell obviously provided some words of inspiration for the Eagles at the intermission. Fayette soared to a 15-10 advantage scoring more points in the first two minutes of the third quarter than they had the entire first half. Grant Reinking hit first, then Keefer added four points, the second pair off of a steal. Pheils converted two free throws for the final points in the run.
Beck stopped the bleeding with a basket off of an offensive rebound. He was fouled on the shot and made the charity toss to cut the lead to 15-13 at the 4:35 mark.
Tharyn Colegrove drove from the right side to the basket for Fayette, but Beck made the first free throw on two separate trips to the stripe making the score 17-15.
Keefer added two freebies for the Eagles, Jacoby scored off a dish from Yoder for the Birds, then Keefer ended the quarter’s scoring off an offensive rebound, sending the game to the final 8 minutes with Fayette up 21-17.
In comparison to the first three periods, a scoring barrage was to come in the final quarter. Fayette’s Travis Wagner got his first points of the night on a reverse layup to open the period. Beck responded for Pettisville making the score 23-19.
Reinking snared a rebound off a 3 point attempt by Pheils and got the put back. Canidate Vickery answered for Pettisville with a sweet reverse layup leading to an immediate timeout request from Blackbird Head Coach, Brian Leppelmeier.
Pheils dropped in a pair of free tosses, but King responded with a nice drop step basket from the left block, was hacked in the act, and sank the charity toss to cut the deficit to 27-24 with 4:26 left in the contest.
Wagner hit Pheils on a nice back door cut for the Eagles. That would prove to be the final field goal of the contest for Fayette. Pettisville then got charitable as they turned the ball over on successive possessions, and committed fouls on their following two. The infractions led to one made freebie by Keefer, then a pair by Wagner to up the Eagle lead to 32-24 with 2:25 left.
King hit a turn-around jumper from the left block for Pettisville, but Pheils added two more free throws. Rupp hit a jumper from the left elbow with 1:48 remaining to make the score 34-28.
The excursion to the free throw stripe continued for Fayette as Reinking and Wagner converted the first of two tries. Rupp buried a bomb off an inbounds play to make it 36-31 with just under one minute left.
Pettisville took another timeout, obviously to set up the press and decide on who to foul. However, and certainly not a part of the Blackbirds plan, Fayette got the ball to Pheils. The sophomore calmly nailed a pair of free tries increasing the lead to 38-31, with just 55 seconds left.
Landon Roth got his only basket of the night, a deep three from the top of the key, with just 41 seconds remaining to cut the margin to 38-34. However, the score was the final one on the night for the Blackbirds.
As been the case for quite some time now, but now their last resort, Pettisville had no alternative but to foul. Wagner added a pair, then Colegrove made the second of two attempts. Pettisville continued to launch shots, but with no success. The misses allowed Fayette to run out the clock and finish with a 41-34 win.
The fourth quarter saw the Eagles pull away thanks to their deadly free throw shooting. For the period Fayette scored 20 points, with 14 of those coming from the charity stripe.
The Eagles controlled the second half. This was accomplished by converting 5 of 7 field goal attempts in the third quarter, then making good on 14 of 18 charity tosses in the fourth period.
Following the contest, Coach Mitchell immediately pointed to the free throws as the difference in the contest. “Free throw were the basketball game. If a team fouls you, and you don’t make the free throws, that’s like a turnover. Tonight we capitalized on it and that was big for us.”
Game totals showed Fayette converting 10-28 shots from the field for 36%, but only made 1 of 7 three point tries. Pettisville’s downfall was their shooting. The Blackbirds converted on just 13 of 50 field goal attempts for 26%, and only 3-17 shots from behind the arc. Typically deadly from the foul line, Pettisville went just 5-10 for 50%. Turnover were a wash as each team committed 13, with Fayette having a 30-25 rebounding edge.
With the win Fayette moved to 9-14 overall and advanced to the Sectional final where they play Holgate. A team the Eagles upset in triple overtime on January 21.
Pheils led Fayette in scoring with 13 points, included an impressive 8-8 from the foul line. Keefer joined Pheils in double figures with 11 tallies. Wagner added 7 points, all in the fourth quarter and Reinking bucketed 5 points. Colegrove and Lopez contributed 3 and 2 points respectively for the Eagles.
Pettisville, who bow out the season at 12-11, were led in scoring by Beck with 9, and King with 6 points. Rupp and Yoder each added 5 points, while Jacoby dropped in 4 scores. Roth and Vickery registered 3 and 2 points respectively to close out the scoring for the Blackbirds.
Pettisville bids adieu to three seniors, Gabe Beck, Ben Gray, and Caleb Rychener, the later who missed the entire season due to a knee injury. While their contributions are appreciated and will be greatly missed, the future looks bright for Pettisville as they have roster full of underclassmen, many of whom saw significant playing time this season.
SCORING BY QUARTER:
Fayette – 2 5 14 20 – 41
Pettisville – 5 5 7 17 – 34
Kent Hutchison may be reached at email@example.com