Eastern boys finish runner-up –
By Wade Linville –
The Western Brown Broncos are the Brown County Holiday Classic Tournament champions after claiming wins over Fayetteville and Eastern to cap off 2017.
The 2017 Brown County Holiday Classic Tournament was hosted by Fayetteville-Perry High School Dec. 28-29 with the Georgetown G-Men facing the Eastern Warriors and the Broncos taking on the home standing Fayetteville-Perry Rockets on day one.
The Warriors were out to defend their tournament title after winning the Brown County Holiday Classic in 2016 and were able to pull off a narrow 54-50 victory over the G-Men in round one to earn a berth in the championship game.
The Broncos claimed a 54-44 win over the Rockets to advance to the championship bout.
In a packed gymnasium on the night of the tournament finale, Dec. 30, it was the Broncos holding on for an exciting 55-50 win over Eastern, marking the Western Brown varsity boys’ second Brown County Holiday Classic Tournament title in three years. It was a tournament championship bout in which the Broncos trailed by one at halftime break, but were able to pull away late and hold on for the win.
“We talked about confidence at halftime. We knew we had blown the lead in the first half, (but) really I was very comfortable coming out in the second half. I felt like we were going to respond in the way that we did,” Western Brown head coach Greg Foster said following his Broncos’ tourney championship win over Eastern.
The Broncos got off to a good start to hold a 14-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
It was Western Brown’s senior guard Carson Eyre scoring on a reverse to lift the Broncos to an 8-5 lead in the first quarter, helping to spark an early run for the soon to be tourney champs.
Then it was Bronco senior Wyatt Fischer knocking down a shot to widen the margin to five points.
An aggressive defense and some hammering of the boards helped to fuel the Broncos’ transition game in the first frame. Western Brown’s senior forward Elijah Smith took a pass from Fischer for a score on a fast break to leave the Warriors trailing 12-5. And what followed was a bucket by Bronco senior Jack Finn on transition to expand the Western Brown lead to nine.
The Warriors were able to stop the first-quarter Bronco run as senior guard T.J. Stivers scored on a drive while taking a foul and finished off the old fashioned three-point play with a hit free throw to cut the Bronco lead to six.
The Warriors heated up in the second quarter, outscoring the Broncos 17-10 in the frame to hold a 25-24 lead before halftime break.
Eastern’s senior guard Marcus Hamilton kicked off scoring in the second quarter, burying a long three-pointer to cut the Western lead to 14-11.
Back-to-back buckets by Smith lifted the Broncos to an 18-11 lead, but with 5:10 to go in the first half it was Stivers scoring on a baseline drive to narrow the margin to five points.
At the midway point of the second period, it was Hamilton grabbing a steal and taking it down the court to score on a lay-up from the left side, slicing the Bronco lead to 18-15.
A bucket by Finn restored a five-point Western Brown lead, but it was Hamilton rifling in his second three-pointer of the night to trim the Bronco lead to 20-18.
Eyre buried a shot from close range to put the Broncos up by four, but what followed was a three-pointer from Eastern sophomore Titus Burns that left the Warriors trailing by just one with 1:27 to go in the second period.
After holding the Broncos’ scoreless in their next possession, it was Burns draining a short jump shot to put the Warriors on top 23-22 with 34 seconds to go in the first half.
Western Brown’s senior guard Clayton Wolfe drained a shot inside the arc to put the Broncos ahead by one, but Eastern’s junior guard Gage Boone buried a shot at the buzzer to give the Warriors a one point lead heading into the locker room for halftime break.
Second half scoring began with a three-pointer by Wolfe to put the Broncos on top 27-25.
The Warriors rallied back to take a 29-27 lead early in the third period, but it was Eyre sinking a shot to tie the game at 29 apiece.
The Broncos broke the knot to hold a 31-29 advantage, but with 4:28 to go in the third period it was Stivers getting a Western Brown defender in the air on a pump fake and then putting up a score while getting fouled on the shot. Stivers was once again able to rack up the “and one” to give the Warriors a 32-31 lead with 4:28 to go in the third frame.
The Broncos were able to regain a one-point advantage, and with 1:03 remaining in the third period it was a three-pointer by Wolfe that expanded the Western lead to 36-32.
The Broncos went on to outscore the Warriors 12-7 in the third quarter of play to go ahead 36-32.
The Bronco lead hit double figures less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, as Finn muscled his way up for a score while taking a foul and ventured to the charity stripe to finish off the old fashioned three-point play, leaving the Warriors trailing 42-32.
A bucket by Burns cut the Western lead to 42-34, but it was a three-pointer by Smith that lifted the Broncos to an 11-point advantage.
A three-pointer by Burns sliced the Bronco lead to 45-37, but it was a set of hit free throws by Finn that put Western Brown up by 10 with just under three-and-a-half minutes to go.
Eastern senior Garyn Purdy pulled down an offensive rebound and hit the put back to cut the Western lead to eight, and with 1:44 to go it was Burns burying a shot inside the arc to narrow the margin to just six points.
Western Brown junior Josh Taylor ventured to the charity stripe to sink one-of-two attempts in the shooting bonus to put the Broncos up 48-41 with under two minutes remaining but it took only seconds for the Western lead to dwindle to one thanks to some excellent shooting by Hamilton and a huge play by the Warrior defense.
Hamilton buried a three-pointer from the right side with 1:30 to go in the fourth quarter, and then it was Burns steal the Broncos’ in-bounds pass, dishing a quick pass to Hamilton who rifled in another three-pointer from right side to cut the Western lead to 48-47.
The large crowd of fans were on the edge of their seats as the Broncos led the defending Brown County Holiday Classic champions by just one with a minute-and-a-half to go in regulation play.
Some clutch free throw shooting and a sturdy defense down the stretch sealed the deal for the Broncos.
With just over a minute to go it was Smith venturing to the foul line in the shooting bonus to bury both attempts, expanding the Bronco lead to 50-47.
Finn was fouled in the bonus while pulling down a defensive rebound with 33.6 seconds remaining and would sink one-of-two free throw attempts to leave the Warriors trailing by four.
Wolfe connected on four-of-four attempts from the foul line while heading to the charity stripe twice in the final 30 seconds to lift the Broncos to a 55-47 lead.
There was no celebration by the Warriors or their fans as Eastern sophomore Hunter Ruckel drained a three-pointer just before the sound of the final buzzer, but cheers from Bronco fans rang out in the Fayetteville-Perry High School gymnasium as the Broncos celebrated a five-point victory to capture the 2017 Brown County Holiday Classic Tournament crown.
Smith led the Broncos in scoring in the tournament championship game with 18 points. Wolfe finished with 14 points, and also shooting for double figures was Finn with 12 points.
While three Broncos reached double figures in what was an exceptional offensive performance by the team, it was a sturdy Western Brown defense that also played a huge role in the holiday tourney championship win.
“Defensively, I thought we did a pretty decent job,” said Foster. “We’re always going to get Eastern’s best. They always play hard against us and (Eastern coach) Rob (Beucler) always mixes defenses up very well and uses his bench really well. It was a good game. Fortunately for us, we made our free throws down the stretch and didn’t bail out after half, and we came out in the second half and played like we play.”
Hamilton led the Warriors in scoring against the Broncos with 14 points, while Burns also reached double figures in scoring with 12 points.
Leading the Warriors in scoring in their narrow 54-50 round one victory over Georgetown was Hamilton with 20 points, while Ruckel fired for 14 points in the win.
The Georgetown G-Men dominated for a 66-26 victory over the Fayetteville-Perry Rockets in the consolation game on Dec. 30 to finish third in the 2017 Brown County Holiday Classic.
Georgetown seniors Luke Gast and Logan Doss led the way in scoring for the G-Men in their win over Fayetteville, shooting for 12 points each.
Georgetown junior Cameron Brookbank shot for 11 points in the G-Men’s holiday tourney win, and junior Noah Pack finished with 10 points.
Fayetteville’s Luke Wiederhold and Clayton Ramey shot for 12 points apiece in the consolation game, scoring all but one field goal for the Rockets.
Wiederhold led the Rockets in scoring with 20 points in Fayetteville’s round one loss to Western Brown.
Named to the 2017 Brown County Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team were Elijah Smith (Western Brown), Clayton Wolfe (Western Brown), Noah Pack (Georgetown), Marcus Hamilton (Eastern), and Luke Wiederhold (Fayetteville-Perry).