By Kenny Varner
WINGATE – It was a battle from beginning to the end.
Two rivals facing each other for the first time this season gave both their fans a lot to cheer about Monday night when the Bellefonte boys basketball team earned a hard-earned 44-39 overtime victory over host and Mountain League rival Bald Eagle.
Despite playing from behind most of the contest, the Red Raiders never faltered, keeping pace right behind the Eagles.
The two added another historic page to its legendary rivalry as both team scraped and clawed for five periods before a winner would be declared.
“It was a tough one to lose. I thought we played hard. I thought our execution on defense was solid. Offensively, I think we have some things to work on,” said Bald Eagle coach Kris Glunt. “Overall it was a good battle. It was one of those game you thought no one should lose. Ultimately, hats off to Bellefonte. They played good enough to win.”
But a breakout final stanza for Bellefonte forced an overtime period, giving both teams a clean slate going into the extra period, tied at 35.
“This is a young team experience-wise. I thought we would go through growing pains early but this game showed character,” said Bellefonte coach Rick Hall. “Ever since Ive been here my kids have played hard. We didn’t shoot the ball the way we did in our first two games but they stayed with it. They didn’t lose their composure down the stretch for the most part. I’m very proud they didn’t give up.”
Making some clutch plays late, Cole Crissman made some clutch plays late helping his team to the 5-point victory.
He finished the contest with a long list of stats. The Senior posted a 10-point effort, pulling down 10 boards, blocking five shots and punching away the ball from a Bald Eagle guard in the final seconds to help secure the advantage.
Going into the extra period, Bellefonte opened the period quickly as Crissman hit one-of-two from the charity stripe. Minutes later, teammate Derek Cox hit a clutch triple, forcing a time out while giving his team a 39-35 advantage with 2:35 left.
After the time out, Bald Eagle rallied back when Cam Watkins hit 2-of-2 in a one-in-one opportunity, pulling the Eagles back to within two at 39-37.
On the following Bellefonte inbounds play, the Eagle put on a full court press. The press forced a hurried pass by the Red Raiders but a save by Cox, kept the ball in Bellefonte’s hands. Cox got the ball to Luke Fisher. I a way to kill the clock, Bald Eagle fouled Fisher, sending him to the line for a one-and-one with a chance to add to his team’s lead.
But the Eagles gamble paid off as the Raiders were able to add just one point to the lead.
Getting the ball back in their possession, Bald Eagle worked the ball around and got it to Tyler Serb. Serb, who finished with nine, cut things to to a 1-point contest, hitting 2-of-2, making it a 40-39 contest.
Bellefonte added two more points with less than a minute to go, thanks to two free throws by Alex Ebeling.
Still with a chance to tie it with a three, the Eagles brought the ball down and the Bellefonte defense closed in and attacked the ball.
Crissman punched the ball cleanly out of the hands of the Eagles and ended the threat.
With just mere seconds left in the game, Ryder Hamilton closed things out, hitting 2-of-2 to put the game on ice.
In the first quarter, both defenses had a shutdown type performance as the Eagles took the period leading 7-6.
Things remained in favor of the Eagles as they continued to keep Bellefonte at arms length, taking a 20-17 advantage going into the intermission.
With the win, the Red Raiders improved to 1-2 while the Eagles fall to 2-1.