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Chiefs sting Tigers with late three

Bellefontaine pulls out 35-34 win in defensive battle

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ABOVE: West Liberty-Salem’s Landon Hormann eyes the basket against Bellefontaine’s Brett Wisner during Saturday’s game. FRONT PAGE PHOTO: Bellefontaine players celebrate after they pulled out a 35-34 win over host West Liberty-Salem on Saturday. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | MATT HAMMOND)

When Bellefontaine sorely needed a big basket, the team’s go-to player delivered.

Standout senior guard Matt Gump, who came in averaging 20 points per game, drilled a three-pointer with 34 seconds left on the clock to cap a fourth-quarter rally that saw Bellefontaine squeeze out a 35-34 non-league win over host West Liberty-Salem in a gritty, defensive tussle.

“I was very pleased that our kids hung in there tonight,” said BHS head coach Henry Stolly. “They kept battling and grinding. We knew it would be a close game. Fortunately, Matt was able to get a good look and he had the confidence to knock it down.”

WL-Salem’s 2-3 zone defense stymied Bellefontaine for most of the night. The Chiefs trailed the entire second half until Gump’s late three.

The Tigers had two offensive possessions after Bellefontaine took the lead, but the Tigers could not get the ball in the basket.

“This was a very hard-fought basketball game,” said WL-Salem head coach Aaron Hollar. “It was a game between two good teams with some good offensive players. To have it be so low scoring is an attribute to how hard both teams played. Every possession was important.”

With the victory, Bellefontaine (4-2) was able to snap the Tigers’ seven-game winning streak.

“We wanted to win this so bad, but this does not make or break our season,” said Hollar. “I am confident our best basketball is ahead of us.”

A spirited first quarter ended with Bellefontaine up 15-10.

From that point on, points were hard to come by for both teams.

The Tigers outscored Bellefontaine 13-4 in the second quarter to move ahead 23-19 at halftime.

WL-Salem led by six early in third quarter and took a four-point advantage (31-27) into the final quarter.

A bucket by WL-Salem’s Landon Hormann at the start of the fourth period pushed the lead back to six points.

Bellefontaine answered with a 5-0 spurt on a Jake Kennedy three-pointer and a Brett Wisner putback. That surge cut the Tigers’ lead to one point (33-32) with 4:10 remaining.

WL-Salem’s Travis Mayse made one of two free throws at the 1:13 mark to give his team a two-point lead.

That set the stage for Gump’s heroics.

“Matt missed some shots tonight, but he didn’t lose his confidence,” said Stolly.

Following the Gump three-pointer, the Tigers had an open look at a three-pointer on their ensuing possession. However, the shot didn’t fall and Bellefontaine’s Max Oyer was fouled getting the rebound.

Neither team was in the bonus, so the Chiefs had to inbound the ball from the baseline on the Tigers’ end of the court.

Bellefontaine attempted a long pass down the length of the court to Oyer, but it was too far out in front of him. He managed to save the ball just before it went out of bounds, but it went right to a WL-Salem player.

The Tigers raced the ball back toward their basket in the final seconds and got a shot off, but it did not fall.

“I have no problem with the shots we took at the end of the game,” said Hollar. “We had a couple of pretty good looks. They just didn’t go down.”

Bellefontaine made only 13 of 42 shots from the field as they struggled to execute against the zone defense of the Tigers.

“We have not really been sure of what to hang our hat on defensively,” said Hollar. “Landon got into some foul trouble early and we went to the zone. What I was really pleased with was how well we rebounded out of our zone. We did not give up many second chances.”

Gump finished with a game-high 11 points. Brett Wisner and Kennedy each added eight points for the Chiefs and A.J. Gorham chipped in with six.

Hormann led the Tigers with 10 points. Grant Burden had seven points and Max Bailey contributed six points.

Bellefontaine also collected a one-point win in the junior varsity game. The Chiefs prevailed 38-37 as John Kirby led the way with 15 points. Ross Kelley had 14 points for the Tigers.

The Chiefs return to action Wednesday at home against Jonathan Alder, while the Tigers are back in action Friday at home against Triad.

BELLEFONTAINE 35, WL-SALEM 34

BELLEFONTAINE (4-2)

Gump 4 0-1 11; A. Gorham 2 0-0 6; Oyer 0 0-2 0; Kennedy 2 2-2 8; Wisner 4 0-0 8; S. Gorham 1 0-0 2. Totals: 13 2-5 35.

WL-SALEM (7-2)

Bailey 2 0-0 6; Mayse 1 1-2 4; B. Burden 1 0-0 3; Woods 1 0-0 2; G. Burden 3 1-1 7; Hormann 3 4-6 10; Merrick 1 0-0 2. Totals: 12 6-9 34.

Chiefs    15    4    8    8  — 35

Tigers    10    13    8    3    —    34

Three pointers: Bellefontaine 7 (Gump 3, Kennedy 2, A. Gorham 2); WL-Salem 4 (Bailey 2, Mayse, B. Burden).Turnovers: Bellefontaine 11; WL-Salem 5. Team fouls: Bellefontaine 8; WL-Salem 8.

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