Top-ranked Union Local rolls to 18-0
MORRISTOWN – Outside of a few tight games, the Union Local boys’ basketball team hasn’t faced much adversity this season as it’s racked up victory after victory.
That changed Thursday evening when the Jets watched sophomore point guard Kaleb McDiffitt get carried off the court by two assistant coaches with a leg injury in the middle of the second quarter.
“He was hobbling from the start (of the game) from a little tweak in the game at St. Clairsville,” said Ben Porter of his catalyst. “I think he just re-aggravated it from the other night, trying to battle through it.”
Though it took a little while for them to find a rhythm as some roles changed, the Jets demonstrated their resolve and erupted for 31 fourth-quarter points and posted a 69-52 victory against Bellaire before another huge turnout inside ‘The Hangar.’
“(Injuries) are part of the game,” Porter said. “You have to deal with injuries and adversity and move forward. We had guys step up and it’s been that way all season. Different guys step up when we need them to.”
A pair of unheralded Jets came up with crucial baskets as Bellaire made a run in the third quarter and appeared to have seized the momentum.
Senior Eric Dunfee caught fire from behind the 3-point line and classmate Cody Tipton came up with clutch buckets as well.
“Eric Dunfee had a huge game and Cody hadn’t played a lot the last few games, but we talked to make sure he kept his focus and he did,” Porter said. “We knew Bellaire would play hard. I thought we started better today, but they got on a couple of runs, made some shots and they hurt us on the boards.”
Dunfee buried a trio of 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 15 points. All of his bonus goals came from the corner.
“Other guys stepped up and that’s what good teams do,” said Bellaire head coach J.R. Battista. “They play really well together and shot the ball well. Guys in the NBA make a lot of money for making corner treys. Those aren’t easy shots.”
The Jets blew the game, which was 13-10 after one, 23-21 at half and 38-36 after three, open with a 22-4 run in the fourth quarter. Along with Dunfee’s shooting, the Jets also got junior pivot Colton McKivitz going on the interior. He scored six of his team-high 16 in the fourth. Sophomore post David Paulick had three goals in the fourth.
“We found ourselves in catch-up mode and we’re not good in catch-up mode,” Battista said. “Give Union Local credit. Those kids have been playing for a lot of years, have invested the time and they deserve to win.”
Junior guard Gavin Porter, who moved over to the point after McDiffitt departed, had only one field goal in the game. However, he converted 13-of-13 at the foul line, including a 10-of-10 effort in the fourth.
“Gavin’s capable of playing the point and I thought he settled into that role in the fourth,” Porter said.
Along with Dunfee, McKivitz and Porter’s production, talented sophomore Trenton Tipton connected on three bonus goals en route to nine points.
Bellaire was led by senior Kenny Hess. He scored 17 points. Sophomore Michael Neil added 13 and junior Tyler Ramsay notched 12.
As for McDiffitt’s future, Porter ruled him out for tonight’s game against John Marshall, but wouldn’t speculate any further.
“We’re going to get him checked out and hope for the best,” Porter said.
Bellaire returns home to take on Bridgeport tonight.
BELLAIRE (52) – Neil 5, 1-2 13; Hess 6, 5-7 17; Steele 2, 0-0 5; Ramsay 5, 2-4 12; Callarik 0, 1-2 1; Westlake 0, 0-0 0; Wright 2, 0-0 4; Totals: 20, 9-15 52. UNION LOCAL (69) – McDiffitt 0, 0-0 0; Porter 1, 13-13 15; T. Tipton 3, 0-0 9; McKivitz 6, 4-6 16; Dunfee 6, 0-0 15; Paulick 3, 2-2 8; C. Tipton 3, 0-0 6; Totals: 22, 19-21 69.
3-point goals: B – Neil (2). Steele. UL – T. Tipton (3), Dunfee (3).