MASON — Momentum is key to victory in most sports, but getting it can be tricky. Even if you have it, it’s fickle and can leave you in an instant.
After the game ends and if you look hard enough, you can find the one or two plays where it seemed like momentum switched sides. In Western Brown’s 57-55 comeback victory over the Batavia Bulldogs in Mason on Saturday, two such plays stand out pretty easily.
Before we get to those plays, let’s set the scene. The Broncos and Bulldogs battled back-and-forth in the first quarter. Western Brown jumped ahead 2-0, but the Bulldogs answered and would continue to answer for the rest of the period. Chaiten Tomlin hit a three-pointer just before the end of the quarter to put Western Brown up 10-7.
Brandon Butler hit a three-point shot to open the second quarter and it appeared the Broncos were well in control of what was a low-scoring affair. Western Brown scored a few more baskets, as did the Bulldogs, and led 18-12 with 5:57 left in the half. They would score one more point the rest of the period.
Batavia went on a 14-1 run, turning the six-point deficit into a seven-point halftime lead. The Broncos scored their only point on a free-throw by Hunter O’hara with 2:17 left in the half.
In the third quarter, Batavia built their lead to as much as 12 points, leading 33-22 with 5:30 left. Then momentum appeared to shift, for a while anyway. O’hara stole a pass, scored a basket and converted the free-throw, sparking a 9-0 Western Brown run that pulled them within two at 33-31. The Bulldogs answered with a 10-4 spurt to close out the quarter with a 43-35 lead.
Batavia led 50-41 with 5:35 remaining in the game when the Broncos made another play to grab momentum back. After a Joe Sams basket cut the lead to seven, Brandon Butler stole the ball and converted the ensuing three-point play to pull Western Brown within four. The Broncos then scored six straight points from the free-throw line to take a 52-50 lead.
It was a short-lived lead, as the Bulldogs tied the game back up 20 seconds later. Tomlin’s layup gave the Broncos a 54-52 lead, but the Bulldogs tied the game again at 55. Western Brown hit two of four free-throw attempts in the last 1:03. Batavia missed both of their free-throw attempts in that period and their last-ditch shot bounced off the rim three times before falling away, completing the Broncos’ comeback.
The Broncos had lost to the Bulldogs twice in the regular season, but head coach Greg Foster said the team played well against Batavia.
“The first two times we played them, and nothing against Batavia, they’re a good team and they’re very well-coached, I thought that we didn’t play our best basketball,” Foster said. “When we play well, we play smart and we do what we’re told, we can beat a Batavia team.”
Tomlin led all scorers with 24 points, seven of which came in the fourth quarter. Butler scored six of his 13 points in the final period while Carson Eyre tallied five points in the fourth.
Foster said Eyre was one of a few Broncos who played well for the team off the bench.
“We had a couple sparks off the bench,” Foster said. “Carson Eyre played really, really well getting into the lane. Timmy Harvey stepped up off the bench, you have to give those guys some props.”
According to Foster, Eyre hasn’t played a lot of minutes at the varsity level this season, but he has seen his role expand of late.
“He’s gotten better all year long,” Foster said. “He hasn’t played a whole lot of varsity but he’s very deserving of the minutes he’s getting right now.”
With the victory, the Broncos advance to take on top seeded Aiken, who finished the regular-season at 19-3. Though the two squads didn’t play each other during the regular season, they do have a few common opponents. Aiken beat New Richmond and Anderson in late December while the Broncos swept a pair of games against the Lions but lost to Anderson by 21.
Foster said the he and the team won’t be intimidated facing facing one of the better teams in the region.
“I’ve never shied away from playing the best teams and I’m not going to do it now,” Foster said. “I’m excited to play against them, I want to see what we can do.”
The Broncos will take on the Falcons at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at Mason High School.