The Jefferson Falcons were soaring literally.
They had found success switching from man-to-man to zone which erased an early eight-point deficit after one quarter. It allowed them to dictate the flow of the game for nearly three quarters.
Then, Mike Butcher came in for the Fitch Falcons and the rest was history as Fitch narrowly escaped with a 47-46 victory.
“Those were some big shots,” Fitch coach Brian Beany said. “They got us
back into the game. It lifted us and got us some momentum.
“The first three quarters, weren’t our typical defensive output. We’ve done a great job of rebounding. We gave up too many second chance opportunities those first three quarters. (We) just didn’t seem to have the energy at times.
Coming out of halftime, with the game tied 25 all, Jefferson (4-8, 2-4) decided to change up what hadn’t been working for it and concluded it needed to run.
It was the right call as the Falcons opened up a 41-32 advantage after a Brett Powers bucket with 2:32 left in the quarter. He finished with a game high 16 points.
“(Jefferson coach Jeremy Huber) tried to play us man early on and we were pretty successful against it,” Beany said. “He went zone and that’s been our nemesis a little bit going against the 2-3. It made the game stagnate for a while. “
With seemingly all the momentum going the way of Jefferson, three out of the next four possessions for Fitch consisted of Butcher calmly draining 3s.
“Shots weren’t falling for us,” Beany said. “Halfway through the third quarter when they had a nine-point lead, Butcher came in and hit those shots.”
Leading 43-39 heading into the final quarter, Jefferson — still playing without 6-foot-7 big man David Chase (right hand) — struggled getting any type of offensive flow as Fitch (4-7, 1-4) rattled off the first two baskets of the quarter to trim it to a one-point lead at 44-43.
Troy Bloom stopped the bleeding a bit as his 3 put Jefferson back out in front, 46-44. It, though, would be the last points Jefferson would score.
“We just didn’t take care of the basketball,” Huber said. “I don’t think it was so much pressure. I just didn’t call the right sets and putting the guys in the right spots at the end of the game.
“Right now, we’re at the wrong end at a couple of these games. Every game is a 50/50 night.”
Fitch’s Gabe Chepke would tie the game up shortly after. It stayed that way until Fitch took possession with more than a minute to go,
Deciding to run most of the clock out, Chepke was fouled with two seconds left. After splitting a pair of free throws, Jefferson got one last open look at the bucket from the top of the key.
It, like countless shots in the final quarter, wasn’t meant to be as it didn’t have the distance and fell short of the rim.
“We got the win,” Beany said. “It wasn’t pretty. Like I told the guys, we need to get better. A win’s a win and we’ll take it.”
Fortune is a freelance writer from McDonald.
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