South Adams senior troop leader Dustin Wanner pitched a tent for his Starfire teammates at the charity stripe Tuesday night and the bonfire the Stars enjoyed resulted in a 57-54 triumph over county rival Bellmont at the Stardome.
Quicker than you could say "swish, swish, swish," the Starfires outscored Bellmont 28-10 from the foul line with Wanner leading the parade hitting 16-18 and he finished with a game-high 28 points. Wanner's made free throws totaled more than Bellmont took for the entire game (the Braves hit 10-14) and Taylor LeFever complimented Wanner with an 8-10 night for the night.
"That was probably a world record for South Adams free throw shooting," mocked Starfire coach Ryan Biegel after the game, adding "we got to the line as many times as we did because we were the aggressor in the game. Dustin played a great game and really took the ball to the hole. Our aggressiveness got us into the bonus by the end of the first period and we got over some of the mental aspects that have hurt us this year. In the end, we just did the right things to win the game."
Biegel was quick to note that Wanner wasn't the only reason the Starfires won the game, however, noting "we talked about the need to have a big win, whether tonight or in the ACAC tourney next week. We had a lot of the kids step up big. Trevor White played like a man on the boards (seven rebounds), Blake Fox played after having been sick with strep throat the last couple of days, and we kept the number of turnovers down. Dustin only had three turnovers tonight and that was simply a phenomenal game for him handling the ball."
Bellmont coach Larry Patterson simply noted "you can't give a team 36 opportunities to score at the free throw line. We came in here tonight and I thought we were prepared but we didn't perform, didn't execute, and didn't play very good defense. I was really frustrated with the communication on the floor."
Bellmont jumped out to an early 6-1 lead as sophomore forward Matt Chronister dominated the inside knocking in two quick baskets. The Starfires had little answer for the 6'5 Bellmont forward and their first official shot of the game didn't come until after three minutes had elapsed.
The initial problem for the Braves came about as Chronister was whistled for his second foul with just under four minutes remaining in the first period forcing Patterson to move him to the bench.
"That was an early key to the game. We had come in tonight with the game plan for going inside. South Adams didn't have anyone that could match up with Matt. But when he got that second foul, we lost our focus and our leadership. Instead of moving the ball around and getting it inside, it was one pass, one shot and done," Patterson lamented.
Biegel agreed that having Chronister moved to the pine was huge for the Starfires.
"We didn't match up with him. He's 6'4, 6'5 and takes up room in the middle. That was a key when he had to go out of the game," he analyzed.
That 6-1 BHS lead quickly became an 11-6 South Adams advantage and the Stars moved it to 14-8 on a Matt Alig hoop and free throw by Trevor White. Only a buzzer-beating three-point shot by Brian Fullenkamp of Bellmont kept the Braves down by just three at the end of the period.
Wanner opened round two with six straight points and later when Scott Hoeppner nailed a trey, SA led 23-13. A Wanner traditional three-point play with 3:22 to go moved the SA edge to 11 at 26-15 and Patterson had seen enough, putting Chronister back in the game.
Over a two and a half minute span, Bellmont zipped off 10 straight points led by Joe Baker who had two treys and a regular hoop to whittle the SA lead to 26-25. The teams swapped a pair of free throws to end the first half; ironically the two throws by Bellmont's Nick Fuelling were their only tries of the first half while South Adams finished 13-15.
The second half was close throughout with South Adams going up by no more than six in the third period at 35-29 after two straight Wanner baskets. Fuelling hit a trey with 1:11 left in the stanza for a 41-39 SA lead and that's where the period ended.
South Adams outscored Bellmont 16-15 in the final eight minutes with 12 of those points coming on free throws and the other four on baskets by Wanner.
It appeared the Braves may have one last shot at victory, however, as after Fuelling swiped the ball at half court and drove in for a lay-up to tie the game at 51-51, Bellmont picked up its only lead of the second half at 53-51 on two Baker free throws.
Aggressiveness in getting to the basket again proved to be a popular theory for South Adams, however, as LeFever cashed in two with 2:41 to go for a tie and then gave the Stars a lead they would not lose at 55-53 with two more with 1:46 left.
Plenty of action occurred in the final 80 seconds as Chronister missed his only shot of the night from the field with 1:20 to play on an eight-foot jumper and White was sent to the charity stripe with Fuelling fouling out of the game. White hit one of two, and 15 seconds later Bellmont's Kyle Lehrman did likewise for a 56-54 tally.
A pivotal play occurred at the 1:00 mark as Bellmont was able to steal a South Adams pass but couldn't control the ball and a scramble turned into a jump ball situation with the Stars getting possession back. They chopped 21 seconds off the clock until Wanner was fouled with the Stars up 56-54.
Wanner calmly approached the line as he had done so often in the game (he had hit 15-16 at that point) but missed the first try before putting the SA squad up 57-54. Baker tried a three-point shot for the Braves in an attempt to tie but White again was in position to grab the rebound and was fouled by Chronister, his fifth of the game.
Neither free throw fell for the Starfires with Logan Smith getting the rebound and a timeout allowed the Braves a chance to set-up a three-point shot to tie. A rushed trey with three seconds left, however, missed the hoop by a good two feet giving the Stars the victory.
Biegel noted that when the Braves got the lead again in the fourth period "we probably had about 95 percent of the people saying 'here we go again.' But we got to the foul line on two straight possessions and got the lead back. This was the biggest win of the year for us to date."
Chronister pulled down nine rebounds and had 17 points to lead Bellmont in both categories while Baker added 15 and Fuelling had 11. Wanner was the only Starfire in double figures at 28 with LeFever and White each tallying eight points.
South Adams entered the game with four straight losses of 16 points or more but improved to a 3-5 record with the win. Bellmont lost for the first time this year to an ACAC team and takes a 3-4 slate into Friday night's NHC match-up against Columbia City at home.
The junior varsity game was a close contest throughout with the Braves holding on to take a 31-25 win from South Adams.
Mason Selking went four-for-five from the field for the Braves including 2-2 from behind the three-point line for 10 points while Jacob Schueler accumulated eight points. Chase Mosser drained three treys and two free throws for 11 points for South Adams.
South Adams 57, Bellmont 54
2PG 3PG FT TP
Fullenkamp 0-2 1-3 0-0 3
Baker 3-8 2-7 3-4 15
Hall 0-1 0-1 0-0 0
Fuelling 2-9 1-4 4-4 11
Lehrman 1-6 0-0 1-2 3
Smith 2-7 0-0 1-3 5
Macklin 0-0 0-0 0-0 0
Chronister 8-9 0-0 1-1 17
Totals 16-42 4-15 10-14 54
2PG 3PG FT TP
Hoeppner 1-2 1-3 0-0 5
Wanner 6-11 0-1 16-18 28
LeFever 0-1 0-0 8-10 8
White 3-6 0-0 2-6 8
Morgan 0-0 0-0 0-0 0
Fox 1-1 0-0 2-2 4
Alig 1-1 0-0 0-0 2
Meshberger 1-3 0-0 0-0 2
Totals 13-25 1-4 28-36 57
Score by Quarters
Bellmont 11 16 12 15 54
So. Adams 14 14 13 16 57
Officials: Dave Kurtz, Roger Scroggins, Rob Fulkerson
Turnovers: Bellmont 12, South Adams 11
Rebounds: Bellmont 31 (Chronister 9, Fuelling 6, Smith 6), South Adams 20 (Wanner 7, White 7)
Assists: Bellmont 12 (Lehrman 5), South Adams 4 (Hoeppner 2)
Steals: Bellmont 4 (Hall 2), South Adams 3
Team Fouls: Bellmont 26 (Chronister 5, Fuelling 5), South Adams 19
Bellmont 31, South Adams 26 (JV)
BELLMONT: Mason Selking 4-0-10, Jacob Schueler 3-0-8, Ross Smith 2-0-4, Max Collier 2-0-4, Lance Vergara 1-0-2, Matt Stidam 1-0-2, Maverick Birch 0-1-1, Cameron Bienz 0-0-0, Jordan Jauregui 0-0-0, Noah Tinsley 0-0-0, Brett Hormann 0-0-0. Totals: 13-1-31.
SOUTH ADAMS: Chase Mosser 3-2-11, Mark Muselman 1-3-6, Cody Wickey 2-0-4, Zach Morgan 2-0-4, Logan Steiner 0-0-0, Dustin Dellinger 0-0-0, Daniel Velasco 0-0-0, Blake Baumer 0-0-0. Totals: 8-5-25.