Pirates fall short in fourth
WILLIAMSBURG — When all things are considered, it’s usually better to finish an athletic contest strong than to start one strong.
That was certainly the case Wednesday night, when West Branch closed with a fourth-quarter flourish to overtake Williamsburg, 62-51 in the Williamsburg Area Senior High School gymnasium, and, in so doing, wrapped up the boys Inter-County Conference North Division championship.
West Branch (18-3 overall, 12-2 in the ICC North) clipped a 10-point halftime deficit down to one point by the end of the third quarter, then ruled the fourth period, 22-10 to put an exclamation point on a hard-fought victory.
West Branch will meet ICC South Division champion Tussey Mountain for the conference title Saturday at 7:45 p.m. at Claysburg-Kimmel High School.
Winning the section outright was a first for the Warriors under head coach Danny Clark, who was thrilled with the way his team closed out Wednesday’s game.
“We’ve been co-champs, but we’ve never been an outright winner,” Clark said. “This is very rewarding. The boys have played hard all year. Down by 10 at halftime, and winning by 11, shows our toughness. This was a great team win.”
West Branch built momentum at the end of the third quarter, and carried it on into the fourth.
A 40-foot 3-point field goal by junior Trenton Bellomy from the left side that beat the third-quarter buzzer pulled West Branch to within 41-40 at the end of three periods and set the stage for the Warriors’ big fourth quarter.
“That buzzer-beater was huge going into the fourth quarter,” Clark said. “It gave us momentum.”
West Branch turned the game squarely in its favor midway through the fourth quarter on two straight buckets by Bellomy, a layup that gave the Warriors a 49-48 lead and a 3-pointer from the right corner that put West Branch ahead, 52-48.
After an inside bucket by sophomore Lambert Palmer pulled Williamsburg to within 52-50, West Branch salted the game away by reeling off the next 10 points.
Junior Doug Kolesar, who fired in a game-high 24 points on eight 3-pointers, made his last trifecta of the night, from the right corner, to put West Branch ahead, 55-50.
Two free throws by senior Chance Eboch followed, and Bellomy, who scored 20 points, hit four free throws over two separate sequences to make it a 61-50 game. Senior Dalton Kristofis converted one of two free throws in the waning moments as West Branch cruised home.
“I thought we did really well,” Kolesar said. “I thought we played good defense, got some crucial (rebounds), and made some shots on the fast break.”
Williamsburg coach Brock Anders, whose team dropped to 13-7 and 9-4, felt that West Branch’s deep shooting — the Warriors converted 11 3-point field goals — was a crucial factor in the outcome.
“They hit some big shots, and they hit some deep shots,” Anders said. “That shot at the end of the third quarter was big. We contested their shots, but they knocked them down.”
Williamsburg, which made only two of nine free throws and four of 16 floor shots in the fourth quarter, missed some opportunities.
“We didn’t make free throws down the stretch, we missed some shots around the basket, and we committed some turnovers,” Anders said. “That’s a recipe for a loss against a quality team.”
The Blue Pirates got 16 points apiece from junior Josiah Dowey and Palmer, who also grabbed a game-high 19 rebounds. Junior Drew Hileman added 12 points for Williamsburg, which built a 30-20 lead at intermission on the strength of 11 first-half points from Dowey and nine apiece from Palmer and Hileman.
“We had a good first half, but against a quality team, you have to put four full quarters together,” Anders said.
Nonetheless, Anders is very proud of what his underclassmen-laden team has been able to accomplish this season, and is looking forward to taking it into the upcoming District 6 Class 1A playoffs.
“If you told me in November that we’d be in position to win an ICC championship in mid-February, I’d have been very happy,” Anders said. “I’m proud of our guys. This is a good tune-up for us heading into district play.”
WEST BRANCH (62): Gutierrez 3 1-2 7, Bellomy 6 5-7 20, Kolesar 8 0-2 24, Eboch 1 2-3 4, Kristofits 2 1-2 5, Kopchick 1 0-0 2, Dale 0 0-0 0. Totals — 21 9-16 62.
WILLIAMSBURG (51): Dowey 4 4-4 16, Palmer 5 5-10 16, Hileman 5 1-2 12, Brantner 0 1-4 1, Uplinger 0 0-0 0, J. McCall 1 0-1 2, W. McCall 0 1-3 1, James 1 0-0 3. Totals — 16 12-24 51.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
West Branch 14 6 20 22 — 62
Williamsburg 19 11 11 10 — 51
3-point goals: West Branch 11 (Kolesar 8, Bellomy 3); Williamsburg 7 (Dowey 4, Palmer, Hileman, James).
Records: West Branch (18-3 overall, 12-2 in the Inter-County Conference North Division); Williamsburg (13-7, 9-4).
Officials: Bill Musser, Bryan James, Craig Yohn.
JV: West Branch, 72-50. High scorers–Travis Rothrock and Camden Kopchick, WB, 24 apiece; Dezmmond Woodruff, WIL, 13.