ORANGE TWP. — Two years, 19 days and four coaches later, Black River’s boys basketball team experienced victory.
The Pirates were fully aware their non-league game Saturday at winless Mapleton was a golden opportunity to snap a 49-game losing streak — so much so that a 48-point loss to archrival Buckeye the night before didn’t matter in their eyes.
Center Tyler Potter and power forward Curtis Roupe made sure Christmas would be a joyful one, powering Black River to a 51-44 victory in front of a rowdy crowd.
It marked the first victory for the Pirates (1-6) since defeating Open Door 54-28 on Dec. 2, 2011.
“Oh, gosh. It means everything,” interim coach/athletic director Josh Calame said. “Now the monkey’s off our back. These kids now believe. They have been believing they’re better and they can win ballgames, but now they’ve seen it, done it, experienced it.
“Moving forward, they’ll be even more hungry and honestly think they can go out and keep on winning.”
The Pirates did just that Saturday by riding posts Potter and Roupe Potter, a 6-foot-3 senior and three-year starter, posted a game- and career-high 18 points, while Roupe, a 6-2 freshman, also hit a career best with 12 points and helped Black River win the battle of the boards.
“(Potter) was great,” Calame said. “That was our game plan: To get him going from that start. He scored on the first play, and (Mapleton) didn’t really stop him or have an answer for him. He seemed to make plays all night for us.
“I’ve been trying to stress playing good defense and boxing out and getting rebounds. Potter and Roupe did a good job of that.”
Sophomore guard Allan Benson added 11 points for Black River, which never trailed despite making only one free throw. The Mounties (0-6), who received 17 points from big man Zach Koenig, trimmed their deficit to one possession on multiple occasions, only to watch Potter muscle up a layup or Roupe hit a 12-foot jumper.
It was impressive mettle for a Pirates team that had lost by an average of 28.8 points during the streak.
“It always seemed like when Mapleton would get within one point or two points, we always had an answer,” Calame said.
Black River ended the 2012-13 season with 20 straight losses, leading to coach Don Brunker’s resignation that spring. Legendary Pirate athlete Cynthia Berry then took the reigns, but went 0-23 and stepped down for personal reasons.
This summer, the Pirates hired former Wellington coach Barry Balderson. He lasted just two games before being forced out due to allegations of verbal abuse.
Calame was then put in charge and helped put Black River on the brink with an overtime loss to Brooklyn in just his second game. That gave the players all the motivation they needed, especially when they realized a game against winless Mapleton was right around the corner.
“They’ve been pointing to this one knowing it was going to be it,” Calame said. “I told them in the locker room before the game, ‘Just because this was a winnable game, we aren’t going to step out on the floor and win. Mapleton is going to be hungry.’
“We knew it was going to be a battle and a war, so we couldn’t overlook that at all.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.