Battle of Gettysburg
J. C. Tilton
It has been some time for South to get a victory in the village of Gettysburg - home of the Trail Blazers. Like South, Trail is a senior laden team with plenty of talent. Last season the Blazers won 2 regular season games against TVS only to be defeated by TVS in the state tournament. At the holiday tournament TVS let slip a decisive half time lead and fell to the Blazers in a close contest. This game TVS would have one of their leading scorers on the sidelines due to injury, and another leading scorer would get into early foul trouble and have to sit on the bench - not exactly a formula for success against a formidable Blazer team.
With these handicaps, TVS would need for someone to step up and make a difference in order to pull off a victory. With Ansonia in control of first place in the CCC, this would be a battle to see who would gain second place. TVS opened with a zone defense and stayed in it all night. Trail played man to man. The Bassler brothers found the hoop early. They combined for 11 of South's 16 first quarter points. The other baskets were by Bryan Nuse and Tyler Loxley. Trail on the other hand was slow out of the gate, settling for a handful of points early in the quarter and shut down in the last few minutes. Both teams seemed to be tense in the early going - both teams had several turn overs. South also got into foul trouble early when Derek Smith picked up a couple in the first quarter and had to sit. Joel Stearman was tapped to come in and fill his shoes. Although he did not contribute many points, his role was to scoop up rebounds. And he did a good on the boards the entire night.
In the second quarter the Blazers picked up the pace, and it was South that was struggling to score. South was getting looks from their baseline offense, but couldn't get the shots to drop. At the 5:25 mark the Blazers pulled within 2 points. The Panthers woke up and put a lid on the basket - only allowing 2 points in the last few minutes of the quarter. Then they went to work in the last few minutes with Dustin Bassler hitting from the field and behind the arc, and Joel Stearman chipping in a bucket to get a little run of their own going. At the half South sat on a 7 point lead.
I think everyone was remembering the holiday tournament and wondering which South team would come from the locker room. A smoking hot team that would pile on the points, or a stone cold team that couldn't find the basket. Both views would be disappointed, instead it was a blue collar team that went to work. There were flashes of athletic display, but for the most part the team methodically went to work on defense and looked for openings on offense. The Panthers had a an air of determination thru out the second half.
Early in the second half, Smith returned to the court after sitting most of the first half. He managed to stay on the court for about a minute and a half. Then within the space of a few seconds, Smith had fouls number 3 and 4 - back to the pine. Joel Stearman once again returned to the court and went to work. Again he banged with the big bodies on the boards and took a charge to make a difference in the paint. The Blazers stayed on the heels of the Panthers. They closed to within 3, but the Panthers stretched the lead back out to 7 - leading 39-32 at the close of the 3rd.
Smith reentered the game for 3rd and last time. Trail had several turnovers in the first portion of the quarter. South took advantage and were able to grow their lead. About midway thru the quarter South had a 44-34 lead and Trail took a time out to figure out a strategy to catch up. What the coach said must have worked as Trail closed the gap. Their aggressive defense was putting TVS on the foul line and initially they were hitting their shots. Smith hit one and Dustin Bassler got a couple. But with 1:45 left in the game the Blazers were within 5 points. South was in a slow down and Trail was fouling to get possession of the ball. Dustin was sent to the line again where he knocked down 2. Trail hit a trey and with :31 on the clock the score stood at 49-47 TVS. Now TVS was getting shaky at the foul line. Cory Bassler did manage to sink one to grow the lead to 3 points - now Trail would need a trey for a tie. But the next two trips to the line were blanks for the Panthers - would these misses come back to haunt them? Trail got control of the rebound after the last Panther miss and called a time out with 5 seconds left. They set up a play and did manage to get a good look - but the shot missed it's mark and TVS won the battle of Gettysburg 50-47. Two players did step it up for South - Joel Stearman who put on his hard hat and went to work in the paint and Dustin Bassler who lead scoring with 24 points - many of them coming at key points in the ball game.
Coach Augsperger was asked about his comments on the game, “I told my guys in the locker room that I was proud of them and I want to proud of them at the end of the game. And I am extremely proud of how we played. Now we played a bad last minute and 20, but we played a good 30 and 30 seconds. We did win the battle of the boards, something that we have struggled with. We rebounded tonight. Our leading scorer is out, our other leading scorer is in street clothes, and we are playing with a kind of make shift lineup. Joel Stearman came off the bench and did as good a job as a back up in my 18 years as I have ever had. He rebounded, got a couple of layups, took charges, and even threw in a layup. He really, really, really deserves a lot of credit. Derek Smith goes out and sits forever. Joel kept plugging away and kept doing all the little things to get it done and win. We really needed him to night and he really stepped up with some big shots and big free throws. He made plays on the floor”.
Coach Augsperger further responded, “Their senior class and our senior class are really good friends. And sometimes that makes a rivalry that much tougher. You always want to beat your enemies - but you want to beat your friends too. Coming into their place and getting a big win is huge. We struggled shooting tonight, the difference was our offensive rebounding. We keep stressing the O-boards, the O-boards, the O-boards and the last two weeks we're starting to get it”. Maybe this will make a difference as South settles into second place of the CCC and eyes the state tournament.
Scoring for TVS: Dustin Bassler 24, Cory Bassler 6, Loxley 6, Nuse 2, Stearman 7, Smith 5. The reserve team won 58-55 scoring: Deleranko 7, Ervin 2, Armstrong 7, Dawson 10, Leedy 10, Rehmert 5, Summers 5, Simpson 12.