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MONROEVILLE—After getting the first three W’s out of the way (Wayne, Woodlan, Whitko), Bellmont fell just short of the W they were really after at Heritage on Saturday night losing to their second ACAC opponent in a nail biter 49-46.
The Braves (1-3) entered Patriot-ville after topping the Whitko Wildcats in a defensive struggle 32-19 at the Teepee last week for their first win of the season.
Heritage boasts a lineup of seven seniors entering the non-conference contest with a 0-4 record. The Pats began the year with a brutal schedule losing to North Side, Wayne (65-63), Leo (81-75), and Lakewood Park Christian (57-50) but nothing prepared them for the way Bellmont came out ready to play despite missing their starting center Maverick Birch who missed the game due to a foot injury.
“It’s been a nagging injury for him,” coach John Baker noted after the game. “We don’t want it to be a prolonged thing thorough the season so we left him out tonight.”
It appeared that Bellmont would be hurting without one of their main scorers down in the post but with the junior down, Baker and his coaching staff looked to backup Ross Smith and Zack Macklin, a reserve forward, to fill in.
“Ross did not have to score very much but he played great defense, took a few charges and rebounded the ball when we needed him to. Zack Macklin had three quarters for 10 points. That’s pretty good productivity. If he continues to play that way he won’t be playing too much junior varsity.”
The junior had one of the biggest plays in the game in the closing minute with Bellmont down 46-43. Parker Zeser, who had the hot hand for the Braves most of the game, made a fantastic slip pass into the paint to Macklin who connected on a contact layup and the foul. After sinking the free throw, Macklin tied the Braves up with the Pats.
On their next possession, Bellmont had a chance to take the lead on a Lance Vergara three-pointer but the long rebound resulted in a Heritage layup on the other end by Wil Knapke putting the Pats up two with under 30 seconds to play.
Zeser had a good look at a three-pointer but, after a long rebound, Macklin made a great effort to track the ball down. Derek Franke picked off Macklin’s pass outside, however forcing the Braves to foul with time dwindling. The Patriots’ Cole Gerardot made one of two from the line leaving daylight for Bellmont with :11 seconds left down just three points.
After a timeout, Bellmont scrambled to get the ball inbounds and the Patriots played stellar defense forcing the ball deep towards half court. Eventually the ball made its way back to Zeser on the wing and the sophomore was forced to sling up a prayer that went unanswered leaving the Pats with a three-point win.
“We were looking to get Parker a look at the top of the key but it just didn’t work out for one reason or another but those are the things we can learn from as a team,” explained Baker.