By Todd Shapiro
SULLIVAN TWP. — Black River senior Jake O’Connor was so good in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s Patriot Athletic Conference crossover game against Columbia it was funny.
O’Connor scored 11 of his 13 points in the final period as the Pirates rallied to win 48-46.
With his team trailing 40-35 with under four minutes remaining, O’Connor hit three 3-pointers in a span of a 1:40 to put Black River (6-11, 4-7) up 45-41 with 1:43 left to play.
It was the Pirates’ first lead of the night.
“I’ve never hit that many threes in such a short amount of time before,” O’Connor said. “After that last one when they called timeout, I was just kinda laughing to myself as I went back to the bench because it was unbelievable.”
The Raiders got the ball back with 15 seconds left and no timeouts, but missed a pair of shots that would have sent the game into overtime.
Just before O’Connor started his scoring spree, it appeared a critical error would cost the Pirates.
With Columbia leading 37-35, the Raiders’ Brandon Clark was fouled as he shot a 3-pointer. The shot was good and Clark made the ensuing free throw to put the Raiders up 41-35 with 3:48 to play.
“I’ve said it all season this is a determined, gritty, gusty ballclub,” Black River coach Don Brunker said. “In the fourth quarter, we did a better job defensively and made Columbia work hard for their shots and it paid off.
“These kids deserved this win. They have worked hard all season, and now they are seeing the fruits of their labor. Columbia is a well-coached team and we knew we would have to play our best game to beat them.”
The early part of the game was dominated by Columbia (5-12, 3-8). The Raiders used intense defense and impressive ball handling to jump out to an 11-4 lead after one quarter. In those first eight minutes, the Raiders held the Pirates to just one field goal while playing turnover-free.
Columbia forged its biggest lead of the game, 16-6, early in the second quarter before senior guard Mat Stuart scored a pair of buckets for the Pirates.
“We just didn’t make plays at the end of the game and that has been a problem all season” Columbia coach Matt Sheets said. “But Black River hit some big shots down the stretch. Those were not easy shots that Jake (O’Connor) made.”
Joe Sas, a 6-foot-2 senior post, was a force in the middle for the Pirates, grabbing 12 rebounds.
Black River finds itself in the midst of a stretch of three games in four days that concludes today when the Pirates host Wellington.
“(Wellington) is one of the biggest games of the year for us,” O’Connor said. “I hope the momentum from this one carries over for us.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at (440) 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.