It took nearly three quarters for the West Rutland boys' basketball team to catch winless Black River, but the Golden Horde had enough to get their sixth win of the season, knocking off the Presidents, 44-40, on the road in Ludlow. After honoring four seniors before the game Black River came out fired up, jumping out to a quick, 8-2 lead on the strength of two Covell 3-pointers and back-to-back steals from Tyler Schuab, one of which turned into an easy lay up.
After West Rutland sophomore Nick Anagnos scored on a rebound and put-back, the Presidents stretched the lead to 12-5 on hoops from Cucullo and freshman Matt Covell after back-to-back blocks from Jacob Covell and Schuab. The Presidents defense was active early, creating enough havoc to produce a 12-5 lead heading into the second quarter. "I give them credit," West Rutland coach Mike Lufkin said after the game.
"It took us nearly the entire game to figure it out and play our game."
The two teams would go back and fourth throughout the second quarter, with the Presidents building a 21-13 lead before West Rutland senior Adan Garcia hit a jumper to stem the tide. But the Black River tough defense continued with two more steals in the final minute, with the second resulting in a buzzer-beater shot from Cucullo to give the
Presidents a 23-15 lead heading into the break. Jacob Covell had 12 points for Black River at the half, while Nick Anagnos led West Rutland with 10.
Neither team could get any offense going at the start of the third quarter, with each squad committing three consecutive turnovers before Horde senior Ryan Harvey broke the ice with a floater in the lane.
However, Black River continued to play scrappy defense and despite not much flow to the offense, maintained a 27-19 lead halfway through the quarter.
But a couple quick President turnovers gave the Horde four quick points and after a missed lay up and another West Rutland basket, all of a sudden it was a two-point game, forcing Black River coach Brian Joy to take a time out with just over four minutes left in the quarter.
After a Schaub lay up, a technical foul called on West Rutland and a Jacob Covell jumper, Black River took the momentum back with a 29-21 lead, but the Horde came back again with two quick baskets and the Black River lead was four. The Presidents then closed out the quarter with some more tough defense and after a Schaub lay up to close the quarter, the lead was 33-23 heading into the final stanza.
In the fourth quarter, however, the Horde finally turned it on, going inside to the big sophomore Anagnos who triggered an 8-2 run to cut the lead to 35-30 and forcing a Black River time out at 6:02. Coming out of the time out the Presidents missed another lay up and then a put-back inside, before Anagnos scored two more baskets in the paint to give the Horde their first lead of the game at 36-35 with just under three minutes left in the game.
After a West Rutland time out, Black River junior Kyle Milligan stole a pass and laid it in for a one-point President lead, before Anagnos came back with two free throws and a one-point Horde lead. Black River missed a jumper on their next possession and after West Rutland missed the front end of a one-and-one at the line, Black River called a time out with 46 seconds left and facing a one-point deficit.
However, coming out of the time out, Black River turned the ball over and was forced to foul and stop the clock. The Horde's Greg DuPrey hit both free throws for a three-point lead, before Black River's Schaub hit a lay up to cut it back to one. After a couple more West Rutland free throws and a three-point lead, the Presidents took a time out with five seconds left.
On the games' final play, the senior Covell got fouled behind the three-point line with a chance to tie the score, but missed the second of three free throws and the Presidents fell short after another Horde free throw, 44-40.
"Our full court, pressure defense is what really saved us tonight," coach Lufkin said after the game. "Also, getting the ball inside to Nick (Anagnos) in the second half was key. They didn't really have anyone big enough to match up against him."
Nick Anagnos led the way for West Rutland with 20 points, while Jacob Eells and Emmitt Ackerman each pitched in with six. Jacob Covell led the way for Black River with 17 points, while Tyler Schaub added inwith 16 points.