River dismantles Bridgeport in D-IV

MORRISTOWN – When Price, as in Brett, is right, River is hard to beat.

Ask Bridgeport head coach Donnie Cash.

The Bulldogs’ veteran mentor had a feeling, as did many others in attendance, that the Pilots’ senior standout wouldn’t shoot like he did the previous game (Tuesday night) against Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans (0-for-11 to start the game), and he didn’t.

Price connected on 10 field goals (out of 17 tries), half of them beyond the bonus arc, en route to a game-high 25 points Friday night as River (17-7) flowed past Bridgeport (7-17), 64-35, in a Division IV boys’ sectional basketball tournament co-final here inside “The Hangar” at Union Local High School.

“The type of player he is, he’s very good. I thought he would come out and be ultra-aggressive, and he was,” Cash allowed.”

Cash wasn’t alone in his feelings, either.

“Rosecrans had a good game plan (Tuesday night) and we came out a little tight, but this was our second game on this floor now. We shot the ball pretty well tonight, especially Brett. Our two practices before tonight’s game were pretty intense. I thought we would play a lot better tonight,” River head coach Mark Romick noted.

Price, a first team all-Eastern District performer, tickled the twine on his all-important first attempt, one of his patented step-back three-pointers.

“That was huge,” he said of his bonus bomb that gave River a 5-0 lead as it led wire-to-wire in earning a third consecutive sectional title. “It really got my confidence going, and I knew, after that first one, that I was in a groove.”

However, he missed his next two before meshing nine of his next 13 tries. It was the seventh time he’s had 10-plus made field goals, and his sixth 25-point-plus night.

“You never want to play bad when your season is on the line, especially when its your senior season,” Price reasoned. “I had to bring my best.”

With his team holding a slim 9-7 edge after one period, Price rattled off nine of the next 13 points as River started to pull away. He finished the quarter with a dozen counters and had as many as the Bulldogs when the half ended with the Pilots on top, 29-15.

Price wasn’t done. After missing his first shot in the third panel, he knocked down back-to-back, step-back threes, and, after coming up with a steal on the defensive end, went coast-to-coast and finished with a left-handed kiss off the glass that prompted Cash to call a 30-second timeout.

It didn’t help as River went on a 10-5 run to end the quarter with a comfortable, 47-24, margin. Price had 25.

“They were clicking on all cylinders,” Cash said of the Pilots. “There’s not much you can do when a team is playing like that, but we gave them some easy baskets early with some unforced turnovers.”

In addition to Price’s third 21-point-plus game against the Bulldogs (he scored 71 total points), classmates Cody Caldwell and Matt Marconi added 12 and 11, respectively. Caldwell, who was held scoreless in Tuesday’s win, led River with seven rebounds. Price landed six. Marconi charted five boards, five assists and a trio of steals.

“This senior group has put a lot of work in … a lot of time in and everything, they’re very deserving of this sectional title. They’re great kids,” Romick added.

The Pilots were guilty of three first-quarter turnovers, but only turned the ball over twice after that with none in the third quarter.

“Like I said the other night, the first game of the tournament is the hardest to win,” Romick continued. “We shot the ball well, we played good defense, which is a trademark of ours under Coach (Gard) Curtis. He does a tremendous job with the kids. You can hang your hat on defense each night out, and we did that tonight. You might not shoot the ball well every night, but if you play good defense you’ve got a chance to win.”

River will now play the winner of today’s 1 p.m. co-sectional final between Barnesville and Shadyside next Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Union Local High School.

“It doesn’t really matter,” Romick said when quizzed about a preference in opponents. “Both Barnesville and Shadyside are playing really well right now, so we’ll just have to go out and play our game, no matter who we face.”

Bridgeport finished with 14 turnovers. The Bulldogs were led in scoring by sophomore QJ Williams with eight points. Senior Aaron Roth had seven in his final game as a Bulldog, while classmate Dallas Fields ended his career with a 5-point effort.

“I told my three seniors, ‘thanks,'” Cash said. “Best of luck in the future. They listened and came to practice every day and worked hard.”

BRIDGEPORT (35) -Roth 3 0-0 7; Fields 2 1-3 5; Kreiter 1 0-0 2; Williams 3 2-2 8; Dyson 2 0-0 4; McGrath 0 2-2 2; Teeman 0 1-3 1; Cash 1 0-0 2; Seevers 0 0-0 0; Sieber 1 0-2 2; Herink 0 1-2 1; Totals: 13-38 7-15. RIVER (64) – Price 10 0-2 25; Marconi 5 1-1 11; J. Indermuhle 1 2-2 4; Caldwell 5 0-0 12; Brown 1 0-0 2; Eggleston 1 0-0 2; Ch. Isaly 1 2-3 4; Dierkes 1 0-0 2; R. Indermuhle 0 0-0 0; Co. Isaly 0 0-0 0; Armann 1 0-0 2; Flannery 0 0-0 0; Totals: 26-61 5-8.

Three-Point Goals: Bridgeport 2 (Kreiter, Roth); River 7 (Price 5, Caldwell 2)

North can be reached at knorth@timesleaderonline.com