TENNERTON – The Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneers dug themselves an early hole they were never able to overcome as they lost their Region I, Section 2 tournament opener against the Bridgeport Indians by a 60-44 score Tuesday night at the high school.
The Bucs fell behind early by a 7-0 score and never led in the season-ending loss.
“I thought we kept trying to bounce back, but tonight just wasn’t our night,” commented Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Travis Foster. “Bridgeport was just way more aggressive than us and that falls on me. Our guys played well, but I have to be a better coach.”
“Bridgeport took away the paint from us,” Foster added. “They ran that backline defense, which we knew, but we didn’t want to reverse the ball tonight and hit the backside or the high/low post. We got put in a predicament where we were a step behind and it just unraveled for us. We reverted back to not moving without the ball and watching the game. We have to be able to adjust and we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Bridgeport win was a bit of revenge for the Indians as they suffered a 53-40 setback to the Bucs on Feb. 2.
“Tonight was almost a full reversal of that game,” stated Foster. “They didn’t shoot well up there up and then hit 50 percent tonight. We were more ready and aggressive at their place; then, they were more aggressive here. It was like we flipped games.”
With the Bucs trying to hang in the game following a Harrison Walker basket, at 30-19 in the first minute of the third quarter, B-U had their hearts ripped out as Walker reinjured his bad knee falling to the court in pain.
The senior Walker has played sparingly since originally injuring his knee in a Jan. 3 home game with Hampshire.
He had scored eight straight of Buckhannon-Upshur’s points before going down with his second injury.
“That was tough to view,” Foster said about Walker getting injured. “My heart went out for him. You could see him going down take a little something out of our team.”
Lamar Hurst finally put the Bucs on the scoreboard with 3:39 remaining in the first quarter, making it a 7-2 game.
Buckhannon-Upshur trailed at the end of the first quarter by a 16-6 margin.
Tyler Randolph started the second quarter for Bridgeport with a basket, making it an 18-6 contest, but the Bucs answered with a 5-0 run getting a basket from Zach Calef-Boring and a free throw plus a jumper from Hurst, closing the gap to 18-11.
Down 25-13, Walker made a lay-up, and after a three-pointer by Bridgeport’s Zach Ayoob, Walker ended the half with an outside jumper putting the Bucs down by 11 at the break, at 28-17.
With the Bucs behind 36-19 just two minutes into the third quarter, Hurst scored five straight points bringing B-U to within 12, at 36-24, with 4:54 left in the quarter.
The Bucs could never get any closer the rest of the game.
Buckhannon-Upshur trailed going into the final quarter, 48-32.
The closest the Bucs could get in the last stanza was 14 points on two different occasions, the last being after Ian Strader scored on a putback making it a 52-38 game with 6:16 remaining.
B-U’s Carter Zuliani wrapped up the scoring in the game with a basket in the paint with 23 seconds left.
Bridgeport was led by Mitchell Duez, who had a game-high 15 points.
The Indians improved to 10-12 on the season and will visit University (15-7) on Thursday for the sectional title after the Hawks crushed Preston by a 93-35 score in the other Section 2 contest.
Hurst paced the Bucs with 12 points, as B-U ended their year with a 9-13 record.
It marked the first losing record for Foster and his Bucs since the 2018-19 season as they faced injuries and the sixth-toughest schedule in the state this season.
“Our guys are great,” stated Foster. “They are a tough group. We have battled so much adversity through injuries and a tough schedule. We could schedule ourselves a 20-win season, but we don’t want to do that. We play a tough schedule to challenge ourselves.”
Foster said he was very proud of his three seniors – Sterlin Thropp, Harrison Walker and Oliver King — for sticking with the program and being a driving force to returning it to being a competitive team.
“I am so proud of my three seniors,” concluded Foster. “They made it 23 games with me over the last four years and that isn’t an easy thing to do. That shows their mental toughness. It is easy to quit when things don’t go your way, but with those three, I appreciate the hard work that they gave to this team. They could have quit at anytime but they didn’t, and I truly appreciate it. They helped put Buckhannon-Upshur back on the map in basketball.”
Bridgeport 16 12 20 12 – 60
Buckhannon-Upshur 6 11 15 12 – 44
Mitchell Duez 6-11 2-3 15; Anthony Spatafore 4-9 5-5 13; Jaden Haywood 5-13 0-1 10; Connor Meese 2-3 0-0 5; Gavin Tichenor 2-4 0-0 4; Ashton Curry 2-2 0-0 4; Tyler Randolph 2-2 0-0 4; Zach Ayoob 1-1 0-0 3; Naelyn Chandra 1-1 0-1 2; Thomas Ayoob 0-4 0-0 0; Tucker Hewitt 0-0 0-0 0; Brennan Cropp 0-0 0-0 0; Rowan Michaelis 0-0 0-0 0; Ben Bifano 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-50 7-10 60.
Lamar Hurst 4-8 4-7 12; Harrison Walker 4-7 0-0 8; Jaden Westfall 3-6 1-2 7; Ian Strader 3-4 0-1 6; Sterlin Thropp 2-4 0-0 4; Zach Calef-Boring 1-6 1-3 3; Shawn Blandino 1-2 0-4 2; Carter Zuliani 1-1 0-1 2; Oliver King 0-0 0-0 0; Nathaniel Ringer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-38 6-18 44.
Three-point field goals – Bridgeport: Z. Ayoob 1-1; Meese 1-2; Duez 1-4; T. Ayoob 0-1; Haywood 0-2; Spatafore 0-3. Totals 3-13; Buckhannon-Upshur: Calef-Boring 1; Hurst 0-1; Strader 0-1; Walker 0-1. Totals 0-4.
Rebounds – Bridgeport: T. Ayoob 6; Duez 3; Haywood 3; Spatafore 3; team 3; Tichenor 2; Curry 2; Meese 1; Z. Ayoob 1; Randolph 1. Totals 25; Buckhannon-Upshur: Hurst 7; Thropp 6; Westfall 6; Blandino 4; Strader 4; deadball 3; Calef-Boring 2; Zulinai 2. Totals 34.
Assists – Bridgeport: Duez 6; Haywood 5; Spatafore 2; Tichenor 1; Randolph 1. Totals 15; Buckhannon-Upshur: Thropp 3; Calef-Boring 1; Blandino 1; Hurst 1; Strader 1; Westfall 1. Totals 8.
Steals – Bridgeport: Spatafore 4; Duez 3; Haywood 3; Randolph 2; Curry 1. Totals 13; Buckhannon-Upshur: Calef-Boring 4; Thropp 1. Totals 5.
Blocked shots – Bridgeport: None; Buckhannon-Upshur: Hurst 2.
Turnovers – Bridgeport: 8; Buckhannon-Upshur: 19.
Personal fouls – Bridgeport: 18; Buckhannon-Upshur: 14.