West Middlesex trailed most of the way until a late surge from the free throw line.
By BILL ALBRIGHT
HADLEY, Pa. -- For more than three quarters of its Mercer County Athletic Conference matchup with Commodore Perry on Friday, the West Middlesex basketball team never led, trailing by six points on three occasions.
But West Middlesex found an opening to take the lead (39-37) on a 3-pointer by Nate Luce with 2 minutes, 15 seconds left. From there, the Big Reds feasted on free throws to pull away for a 48-38 victory.
Jake Buzzard made a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line to seal the win. Buzzard and Commodore Perry's Josh Sindlinger led all scorers with 16 points.
"I was pleased with our effort, and Buzzard came up real big down the stretch," Big Reds coach Chad Mild said. "I didn't think we played exceptionally well, but the kids played hard.
"It is always nice to have a gut-check when you are playing from behind on the road."
Mild pointed out that as Buzzard goes, so go the Big Reds.
"If he is playing well, we seem to play well right with him, and if he isn't, we seem to be pouting with him," Mild said. "His performance tonight, especially down the stretch, was just great."
While some of the West Middlesex stalwarts were struggling early, it was the play of some of the younger Big Red players who stepped up.
"I was especially proud of our sophomores in the first half," Mild said. "Paul Fair and Bob Michaels played a lot of minutes and we were only down by five, so we didn't lose anything with those guys in there. They held the fort down for us."
As for his club's inability to score, Mild pointed out that his players had some good looks at the bucket, but the shots simply didn't fall.
"That happens sometimes on the road," Mild said. "We haven't been shooting the ball particularly well over the last month, and I told the kids tonight, 'hey, we are on the road so we have to get aggressive and get some second shots.' "
With the Panthers falling further behind, Commodore Perry coach Jay Carlson admitted that his club had no choice but to foul.
"We got behind and had to start fouling them," Carlson said. "It [falling behind] wasn't for lack of effort, but more for lack of execution down the stretch. We put three solid quarters together and then we fell apart."
Carlson felt that a key to his team winning the game was to get the ball inside, and although it penetrated more than in the first of two meetings between the two clubs, it just wasn't enough.
"One thing we did better tonight was to get the ball inside," Carlson said. "We have to get the ball inside to Eric McCullough and Josh Sindlinger if we are to be effective."
Although the Panthers led for most of the game, they were never able to pull away as the Big Reds hung around until they made their move.
"We tried to get away from them, but they kept coming back," Carlson said. "We pressured them to try and get some turnovers, but we just couldn't hold onto the lead. Buzzard certainly stepped up and iced the win down the stretch."