LUDLOW - Although a number of fans made the trek from Ludlow to Chester to support their team, the Black River Presidents couldn't pull off the upset and notch their first win, closing out their regular season with a tough, 48-41 loss to the rival Chieftains. The win also gave Green Mountain their sixth win, allowing them to sneak into the state tournament.
Of course, both coaches were very aware of the situation and importance of this rivalry match up. "Our guys really want this one," Black River coach Brian Joy said before the game. "It's our last shot at a win and we sure would like to the play spoiler tonight." While Green Mountain coach Robert "Stretch" Gillam was also very aware of the situation. "We all know this is a big one tonight because we need a win to get in," coach Gillam said before the game.
"We need to hit our free throws - it's killed us a few times this season. We need to play good defense and Jason (senior, Albert) has to play a smart game and run the offense. We know that Black River is motivated to beat us tonight."
Neither team could build any momentum early on because several
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turnovers from both teams but halfway through the quarter, Black River had an 8-4 lead after a Kyle Milligan lay up, forcing coach Gillam to take a time out. After yet another Green Mountain turnover, President senior Jacob Covell drove the lane for a lay up for a 10-4 Black River lead, before the Chiefs closed out the quarter on a 5-0 run, including a tough put-back in traffic from senior Mike Cavacas, to cut the lead to one.
Turnovers would continue to liter the start of the second quarter, but Chieftain freshman Jake Cavacas scored six points (two lay ups and a put-back under the basket) in the first four minutes of the quarter to help Green Mountain get the lead back at 14-12. The two teams would go back and forth for the rest of the quarter, but a late10-2 run by the Chiefs - capped off by a buzzer beater lay up from senior Ryan McNally - gave Green Mountain a 29-22 lead at the break.
Black River came out fast at the start of the third quarter, which got the Presidents' fans creating some noise as the lead was cut to one after a 3-point bank-shot from senior Jacob Covell. Yet Green Mountain held off Black River for the remainder of the quarter and entered the final stanza with a 37-33 lead.
The Presidents cut the lead back to two points at the start of the fourth on a jumper from Milligan, before the Chiefs came back with a 6-0 run of their own, spurred by a lay up from Cavacas and two put-backs inside from senior Ryan McNally, forcing the Presidents to take a time out with just over four minutes left.
After the time out, Chieftain senior Cavacas came up with a huge block on an attempted lay up, which the Chiefs turned into a basket on the other end to push the lead back to six. After another President turnover, McNally scored on a put-back, before Jason Albert hit two free throws to push the Green Mountain lead to seven with just under three minutes left.
The Presidents was running out of time and after throwing away the next in bounds pass, Green Mountain effectively ran off some time and forced the Black River to foul and stop the clock. The Chieftains, who have had their problems at the free throw line this season, hit five-out-of-seven in the final two minutes clinch the 48-41 win and a berth in the tournament.
Despite the loss, Black River coach Joy was happy with his teams' effort. "That might have been the best four quarters we've put together all year. I'm very proud of this team despite our record, because they came to play every time and worked really hard. It was also great to see a lot Black River students at the game and supporting us. I wish the outcome was different, but the kids played hard tonight."
Coach Gillam turned out to be exactly right in stating before the game that free throws would be key at the end. "It wasn't easy, but we found a way to win," coach Gillam said after the game. "We needed to hit our free throws at the end and it was nice to get it done."
For Black River, Kyle Millgan led the way with 13 points, while Jacob Covell scored 12 and Tyler Schaub pitched in with 11. For Green Mountain, freshman Jake Cavacas led the Chieftains (and all scorers) with 14 points, while Mike Cavacas scored nine and Jason Albert and Jake Walker six each.