The Times West Virginian

March 5, 2014

Bees surge late to top Huskies in close game: PHOTOS

By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian

RACHEL — Brennon Vincent stands just 5-foot-10 on the stat sheet, but he played like a 7-footer as he led East Fairmont to a late 55-53 victory over North Marion Tuesday night to advance in the sectional tournament.

Vincent, a junior point guard, didn’t score 30-plus points. He didn’t pull down 20-plus rebounds. What he did do, though, was score the Bees’ final seven points in a game that was decided in the last 0.4 second.

“Brennon hit some shots. He’s a floor leader,” East Fairmont coach Tyrone Asterino said in between hugs, handshakes and fist bumps after the game. “(He’s) small in stature but, man, he’s got a heart and he plays so hard. And he plays intelligent. Those are intangibles. That’s not something we do every day at practice. Ball handling and shooting are what we do in practice. But his heart and determination and his drive to get things done, that comes from within. He really, really played a good floor game for us.”

With East up 42-40, Vincent went to the line, where he would start the late surge for the Bees. He knocked down two free throws. Then, as the Huskies brought the ball up the court, Vincent poked it loose and coasted easily to a layup, putting the Bees up by six, matching their largest lead of the night.

The two teams would continue battling, but when there was a rebound to be had, a loose ball to be picked up, Vincent was there, filling up the stat sheet with 15 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists.

“We put in some new plays last week,” Vincent said of what led to his success on the floor. “We tried them against Weir, and it worked really well. So we tried to do it tonight and get them out of their defense and once we were in man, it just motivated me.”

The junior guard would go on to hit foul shots with 6.7 seconds left and again with 4.7 seconds left to put his team up, 55-53.

East wouldn’t give North a chance to shoot, sending senior Chase Banker to the line for the Huskies. He made the first and intentionally missed the second, sending the ball into the air and eventually sliding out of bounds with the clock showing 0.4 second. The situation gave North one more chance, and it was going for the win.

“For 0.4 second, we got a pretty good look at the basket. As good as you’re going to get, I think,” North Marion coach Chris Freeman said of Cole Richards’ final shot which just missed the front iron. “It was just unfortunate it didn’t go in.”

And who was guarding Richards? You guessed it. Vincent.

The entire game mirrored the final shot, with no team ever leading by more than six at any point.

Turnovers were aplenty, but that was expected in a game like this, Freeman said.

“I knew it was going to be a heck of a game,” he said. “You have to tip your hat off to East side. They answered the call. We tried to turn them over and when we did turn them over, we turned it back over. So we didn’t get hardly anything out of those turnovers. You’ve got to be able to execute.”

For the Bees, being aggressive and attacking the basket was the difference from the previous outings between the two teams.

“We just knew coming into the game that if we got (Cody) Opron and Banker in foul trouble, that we’d have a better shot at winning,” Vincent said. “So we tried to get them off the floor.”

Joining Vincent in double figures were three other Bees as Nick Greely scored 14 and Myles Johnson and Ronnie Mills each scored 10. For North, Opron posted a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds while Matt Martin scored 14 and Chase Banker scored 11 to close out their senior season.

East will advance to the sectional championship game on Friday to take on Fairmont Senior at 7 p.m. Last time out, the Polar Bears escaped with a 46-44 win at the Woody Williams Armory. Asterino said the next two days of practice will really prepare his team for another tough game.

“We have to regroup and come back and get better,” he said. “If we’re able to get better (today) and Thursday, we’ll take our chances and see what happens on Friday.”

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.