WELLINGTON — At first glance, Black River’s 67-52 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division loss to Wellington Tuesday night appears to be just another setback for the Pirates.
But those in attendance saw a Pirates team that didn’t quit when it would have been easy to. Black River (1-4, 0-3) fought back from a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull within nine before fading down the stretch. It was that fighter’s mentality and effort that coach Don Brunker praised afterwards.
“I think there were a lot of positives tonight,” Brunker said. “I love coaching kids that don’t quit and I have a group of them. I think we started and finished strong and the middle quarters were solid.
“The effort tonight was there but it just didn’t show in the final result.”
The Pirates opened the game hitting their first four shots and jumped to a 10-2 lead. Wellington got back into it on the strength of its bench play.
Devin Broadwater hit a 3-pointer for the Dukes’ second basket and that sparked a 15-4 run that gave Wellington a 17-14 lead entering the second quarter. Broadwater’s second basket of the quarter gave Wellington (3-2, 1-1) the lead at 15-14.
“We really didn’t come out that fired up,” said Broadwater, who finished with 15 points. “So the bench came in and got a spark going. We never know when we are going to be called upon but tonight we came ready to play.”
Wellington led by as many as seven points in the second quarter (24-17), but Black River pulled to within 27-23 on a Jake O’Connor basket with 4:05 left in the half.
However, three turnovers in the next five possessions by the Pirates coupled with a Wellington 3-pointer by Nathan Starkey led to a 31-23 Dukes advantage at the break.
Wellington built on its lead in the third quarter as three Black River turnovers in the opening two minutes led to six Wellington points and a 37-25 lead. A three-point play by Wellington’s Justin Kidd (13 points) and a buzzer -beater by Broadwater at the end of the quarter gave Wellington a 48-31 lead.
Trailing 58-42 with 2:25 remaining, Black River’s Mat Stuart hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 58-45. Broadwater split a pair of free throws on the ensuing Wellington possession and a three-point play by Stuart pulled Black River to within 59-48. A Dukes turnover was followed by a driving layup by Black River’s Brian Clements cutting the deficit to 59-50 with 1:21 left to play.
Forced to foul with time ticking away, Black River sent Wellington to the lane and the Dukes responded. Wellington hit 8-of-12 free throws in the final 81 seconds to secure the win.
Black River was paced by O’Connor’s 16 points while Jon Sas and Stuart finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Contact Hans Schneider at email@example.com.