Carter Zuliani goes up for a basket against Bridgeport in their sectional tournament game Wednesday night. (Bobbie Hatcher/My Buckhannon)

Early deficit is too much for Bucs to overcome in 53-44 sectional loss to Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT – A slow start wound up costing the Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneers in their sectional opener with the Bridgeport Indians Wednesday night.

The Bucs managed just one field goal in the first seven minutes of the game and trailed by a 12-2 score late in the first quarter en route to a 53-44 defeat.

Despite the two teams having the two best overall records of the four sectional teams, it was a No. 3 seed (B-U) against the No. 2 seed (Bridgeport).

It was a slow methodical-paced game which played into Bridgeport’s hands as possessions and field goal attempts were at a minimal.

Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Jason Westfall said about the slow start, “We had our opportunities and I felt we were prepared going into the game, but we lost some of those early possessions and that set the tone for the game. I was concerned about that before the game because it’s hard to find extra possessions against Bridgeport. They are well-coached and know how to use your mistakes against you. I am proud of how the team responded to the adversity and kept battling. We made some adjustments, but it was difficult trying to sustain a run.”

The only score for B-U in the first seven minutes was a short jumper by Jaden Westfall, but the Bucs did close the quarter with baskets from Ian Strader and Carter Zuliani making it a 12-6 game going into the second quarter.

Bridgeport started the second quarter on a 9-2 run putting the Bucs down by a 21-8 score with 4:44 remaining in the half.

Jerin Westfall put in a foul shot for B-U and Jevon Westfall uncorked a three-pointer to bring B-U to within nine, at 21-12.

Down 25-14, Malaki Williams put in a short jumper and Zuliani added a free throw making it a 25-17 score at the half.

The two teams combined for just six field goals in the third quarter as most of the scoring in the period came from the free-throw line.

The Bucs were down nine, at 37-28 with 90 seconds left in the quarter but Bridgeport closed on a 6-0 run putting Buckhannon-Upshur down 43-28 heading into the final quarter.

The closest the Bucs could get in the fourth quarter was nine points after a Nathaniel Ringer trey with 49 seconds left, at 51-42.

In their two games with Bridgeport, the Indians limited the Bucs to 38 points in the first game and 44 in this one, two of their lowest offensive outputs of the year.

“We like to work the middle and that is the strength of Bridgeport’s defensive concepts,” noted Westfall. “However, we had our chances. In both games we had opportunities. We needed to finish on our looks a lot better because they did. It is hard to gain that ground back against one of the best teams in the state. They were better both games and hats off to them.”

Bridgeport improved to 18-5 on the year and will face University on Friday night for the sectional title. University defeated Preston in their sectional opener Wednesday.

The Indians were led by Ashton Currey who scored 16 points and Ben Bifano who added 12.

The Bucs didn’t have anyone reach double figures as Jevon Westfall had nine points and Zuliani contributed eight points.

The Bucs closed out their year with a 15-7, their best record in over two decades.

“I am extremely proud of the team and every associated with the program,” concluded Westfall. “They played their guts out all season. They were proud to wear the Blue and White. The love and the respect I have for every member is immense. This senior class should be proud of what they accomplished with the most wins in 20 some years. The returning players know the bar has been set. This was a special year and a special time in our lives.”

The boxscore:

Buckhannon-Upshur  6  11  11  16 – 44

Bridgeport  12  13  18  12 – 53

Buckhannon-Upshur 44

Jevon Westfall 3-5 0-0 9; Carter Zuliani 3-4 2-4 8; Ian Strader 3-10 0-2 7; Jaden Westfall 2-4 3-7 7; Malaki Williams 2-4 1-3 5; Nathaniel Ringer 1-1 2-2 5; Jerin Westfall 1-6 1-2 3; Bryson Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-34 9-20 44.

Bridgeport 53

Ashton Curry 5-5 6-7 16; Ben Bifano 2-5 8-11 12; Landon Sanders 5-5 0-0 10; Jack Spatafore 1-4 2-2 4; Rowen Michaelis 1-1 1-2 4; Zach Ayoob 0-3 3-4 3; Phoenix Sickles 1-4 0-0 2; Anderson McDougal 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 16-29 20-26 53.

Three-point field goals – Buckhannon-Upshur: Jevon Westfall 3-4; Ringer 1-1; Strader 1-4; Jerin Westfall 0-4 Totals 5-13; Bridgeport: Michaelis 1-1; Sickles 0-1; Spatafore 0-1; Bifano 0-2. Totals 1-5.

Rebounds – Buckhannon-Upshur: Zuliani 6; Strader 4; Jaden Westfall 4;  Jerin Westfall 4; team 3; deadball 3; Johnston 1; Williams 1. Totals 26; Bridgeport: team 5; McDougal 4; Sickles 4; Sanders 3; Curry 2; Bifano 2; deadball 2; Ayoob 1. Totals 23.

Assists – Buckhannon-Upshur: Jaden Westfall 5; Strader 3; Jerin Westfall 2; Zuliani 2; Jevon Westfall 1. Totals 13; Bridgeport: Ayoob 1; Bifano 1; Curry 1; McDougal 1; Sanders 1; Sickles 1; Spatafore 1. Totals 7.

Steals – Buckhannon-Upshur: Jevon Westfall 4; Jaden Westfall 3; Ringer 1. Totals 8; Bridgeport: Ayoob 3; Sickles 2; Spatafore 2; Bifano 1. Totals 8.

Blocked shots – Buckhannon-Upshur: Williams 2; Jaden Westfall 1; Jevon Westfall 1. Totals 4; Bridgeport: Sickles 1.

Turnovers – Buckhannon-Upshur: 13; Bridgeport: 10.

Fouls – Buckhannon-Upshur: 18; Bridgeport: 17.

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