HANNIBAL - Experience vs. Youth.
When the two meet, experience usually emerges the victor.
Such was the case Tuesday night at River High School where Bridgeport flexed its veteran muscle down the stretch to hold off the Pilots, 51-44, in a tense prep boys' basketball contest.
BRIDGEPORT’S Bailey McGrath drives to the bucket against River’s Cole Isaly during the first half of Tuesday’s game inside the R.L. Potts Gymnasium. The Bulldogs prevailed, 51-44. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
''We hadn't had much success down here,'' Bulldogs head coach Donnie Cash lamented after watching his team move to 4-0. ''Just like at Shadyside, it's been tough for us to come down here and get a win.
''We scrapped one out on the road.''
It wasn't easy.
Bridgeport led by as many as 11 in the second half, but the Pilots (1-3) clawed their way back and pulled to within three in the final minute.
Bridgeport's Q.J. Williams hit a jumper to give the Bulldogs a 47-39 lead with about three minutes remaining.
Moments later, River's Eric Dierkes scored to cut the deficit to six, 47-41.
Neither team mustered any offense until 39 seconds left when the Pilots' Cole Isaly drained his fourth 3-pointer of the night, this one from the left corner, to make the score 47-44. He finished with a team-best 12 points.
Dierkes fouled Bridgeport's Koty Seevers on the ensuing possession. But Seevers, with the River crowd in a frenzy, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and the Pilots grabbed the rebound.
River's Parker Caretti brought the ball ball up and immediately tried to make a pass. But the ball was stolen by the Bulldogs' J.C. Cash and he was fouled with 29.7 seconds left with his team now in the double bonus.
Cash drained both free throws to make the score 49-44 and ice the game.
''We had 40 seconds left and everyone in the crowd is yelling ''Go, go, go!'' and I'm yelling ''Whoa, whoa, whoa!,'' River head coach Mark Romick said of the frantic final moments.
''Forty seconds is an eternity. You can get four, five, six possessions out of that. We played like it was the last possession of the game.
''But (Parker, a freshman who finished with 11 points) is young and he'll get better. He does a lot of good things.
''Our youthfulness caused us to hurry in that situation.''
Meanwhile, Bridgeport rode its veterans, in particular Parker Dyson. Dyson finished with a game-high 22 points, but he was also a catalyst defensively where his 6-6 frame came in handy.
''The maturity level he's at now from last year is leaps and bounds,'' Cash said. ''Last year, he was going through stages of starting for the first time as a sophomore. But, as the rest of us, we're a year older now and we're adapting to the situation.''
Romick agreed Dyson played a key role on both ends.
''He's always a factor around the bucket,'' he said. ''You always have to know where he's at.''
Romick said his team was unable to put Dyson in uncomfortable situations.
''That's part of being young, too,'' he said. ''Your opponent has strengths and weaknesses. When you allow them to play to their strengths they will be really good. You have to force them to play to their weakness sometimes. We didn't do that on occasion.''
Another thing River didn't do was shoot well. After jumping out to an early 10-3 lead, Bridgeport clamped down with a mix of man and zone, mostly zone.
''We just didn't want them to get in a good rythym shooting the ball,'' Cash said. ''We wanted to keep them off-balance and I thought we did a good job of that.''
''We had 15-, 20-footers all night and we just couldn't knock them down,'' Romick said. ''If we'd been standing on the pier at Lake Erie (shooting), I don't know if we'd hit (water). But we had good looks.''
River also never went to the line during the game. Meanwhile, Bridgeport was 21 of 34 from the charity stripe.
''Despite all that we still had a chance,'' Romick said. ''We kept battling and worked our butts off to get back. We had it down to one possession and had the ball.''
River won the junior varsity contest, 44-20. Scoring:
BRIDGEPORT (51) - Seevers 2 1-6 5; Cash 1 3-4 5, Teeman 2 4-8 8; McGrath 0 4-4 4; Williams 3 1-1 7; Dyson 7 8-11 22; Sieber 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 21-34 51. RIVER (44) - Indermuhle 2 0-0 4; Dierkes 4 0-0 8; Isaly 4 0-0 12; Caretti 5 0-0 11; Gauding 1 0-0 3; Armann 1 0-0 2; Flannery 1 0-0 2; Amos 1 0-0 2; Smith 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 0-0 44.
3-Point Goals: Isaly, Caretti, Gauding.
Thorp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org