Peru entered the semi-final game of the class 3A sectional at Bellmont Friday night playing hardly anything like the number one ranked team in the state that they were at the beginning of the season when they opened up with an 8-0 record.
Then again, Bellmont played hardly anything like a 4-17 team and battled with the Tigers until late in the game when Bellmont turnovers and Peru free throws made it a 47-36 Tiger victory.
The win for Peru puts them into the championship game with Norwell after the Knights rallied for a 59-54 triumph against Wayne. Norwell then defeated Peru 59-44 for the championship.
Neither Bellmont nor Peru could connect in the opening half and it wasn't until Peru's Josh Hobson hit an uncontested three-point shot with just two seconds left in the opening half that the Tigers led in the game. Up to that point, the Braves had led the entire way with the exception of three early ties.
In the first two periods, Bellmont connected on just 6-21 attempts while Peru was 6-17. The best part of the Bellmont game was their rebounding effort which showed a 13-8 advantage and on two of them Matt Chronister scored after grabbing an offensive board. The shot of the game for Bellmont came with just eight-tenths of a second remaining in the first period on an out-of-bounds play from underneath their own basket. The Braves threw a half-court pass to Nick Fuelling who caught the ball and in one motion launched a lengthy heave at the basket. The ball smacked off the backboard and banked through the net for three points and a 9-6 BHS lead.
Bellmont took its largest lead of the night at 11-6 when Chronister opened the second frame with a bucket but his second offensive rebound basket of the quarter at 3:13 was the last time Bellmont would visit the scoreboard for the period for a 15-12 edge. Peru hit for two on a hoop by Luke Primerano and then Hobson's trey in the waning moments gave the Tigers the lead for good.
Two of the main advantages in the contest for the Tigers were turnovers and foul shots. Peru turned the ball over just six times (two of which were on offensive fouls on drives to the basket) while the Braves coughed it up 16 times. In the first period, two of the first three Peru baskets came directly off Bellmont miscues. Forrest Fullenkamp hit two charity tosses with 2:30 left in the first period for Bellmont and the Braves would make only two more for the rest of the night finishing at 4-6 while Peru cashed in 14-22.
Primerano was the main threat for Peru from the foul line hitting 9-10 while the rest of the Tigers were a meager 5-12.
Bellmont tried to stay close in the third period and the Tigers never led by more than five (25-20). A reverse lay-up by Kyle Lehrman, who led Bellmont in scoring in the game with 12, with 2:01 sliced the margin to 25-24 and after the teams swapped treys, Travis Smith scored for a 30-27 lead going into the final period.
Joe Baker's final three-pointer of his career came at 1:27 of the final stanza and reduced the Peru advantage to 39-36. Primerano gave the Tigers some breathing room with a basket and Bellmont committed three turnovers in the final minute of play to help Peru go on a 6-0 run for the final 47-36 tally.
Bellmont coach Larry Patterson was disappointed in the final outcome but not with the effort put forth by the Braves in the game.
"We had some turnovers at bad times but they came as the kids tried too hard to make something happen. Kyle (Lehrman) played a real nice game for us at both ends of the floor (he was their leading scorer, rebounder with six and tied for tops in assists with three) and took care of the ball well. We had some good looks and the shots just didn't fall," he noted.