The commonly used phrase “third time is the charm” was relevant in the Division IV boys basketball sectional tournament game between BBC rivals Pettisville and Fayette Tuesday night at Swanton. That is because in their third meeting of the season, with Pettisville having won the previous two, Fayette used an 8-0 run to begin the second half to spark them to a 41-34 victory.
“In the third quarter, they kind of made a little bit of a run. And just some 50-50 balls. A couple of rebounds that we should have, they pick up,” said Pettisville coach Brian Leppelmeier on the difference in the game. “We had a couple of defensive breakdowns. The game, with the limited possessions we had tonight, we just couldn’t afford to have that happen.”
Scoring was hard to come by in the first half as Cole Stuckey of Fayette and Pettisville’s Detric Yoder traded three-point baskets near the end of the second period to give the Blackbirds a 10-7 advantage at the break.
“I think both teams were just a little bit tight (out of the gate),” noted Leppelmeier. “We were kind of out on their shooters taking away what they wanted to do. And obviously, they had it packed in taking away what we wanted to do.
“They did a great job of collapsing on our post players. I thought we needed to be a little bit tougher inside, and finish a little bit more. But (it) just didn’t seem like we could get the ball to drop.”
The Eagles came out firing to take the lead in the second half behind eight third quarter points from Trey Keefer.
Grant Reinking got them going with a fade away jumper, then Keefer scored inside and off a Blackbird steal, while a Clayton Pheils three-point play gave the Eagles a 15-10 lead 1:50 into the third.
“Trey Keefer came out and gave us a couple buckets there. And Grant Reinking started making his layups a little bit. So we got a little inside/outside working,” said Fayette mentor Todd Mitchell. “Our defense kept us in (the game) the whole first half. We had great possessions actually in the first half, we were just tight. I think it being the first tournament game. Came out in the second half and did a very good job of everybody just chipping in doing their job. Both ends of the court.”
The Blackbirds got within two, 19-17, later in the quarter but Keefer’s putback basket with 1:13 to go made it a four point difference heading into the fourth.
Just over three minutes into the final period, Pheils hit a pair of free throws to put Fayette up 27-21 but Pettisville’s Dillon King responded with a three-point play, trimming the Eagle lead to 27-24 at the 4:26 mark.
However, Pheils then went backdoor for an Eagle basket, Keefer split a pair from the foul line, and Travis Wagner grabbed the rebound on Keefer’s miss where he was also fouled and hit a pair to make it 32-24 with 2:25 to play.
In the final three minutes, the Eagles went 12 for 16 from the line to seal the deal.
“We shot our free throws outstanding in the fourth quarter,” said a satisfied coach Mitchell. “You have to do that to be a championship team. Very proud of the guys stepping up and making those pressure free throws.”
Despite Pettisville being the higher seed and having already beaten Fayette twice, Mitchell was confident with how his team was playing they could come away with the upset.
“As the season’s been going on, we’ve had I think 8 or 9 games we lost by four points or fewer,” he said. “The kids just kept on buying in. And tonight they kind of put it all together. It’s kind of nice to see.”
Pheils led the Eagles with 13 points while Keefer finished with 11. Gabe Beck had 9 to lead the Blackbirds (12-11).
Fayette (8-15) will now take on third seeded Holgate (18-4) in the sectional final Friday at Swanton.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010