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Free throws key Ferry win vs. Big Reds

BELLAIRE — When the Bellaire Big Reds and rival Martins Ferry Purple Riders play, you can usually throw the records out, as these fierce rivals tend to leave it all on the floor.

Tuesday evening on Guernsey Street was no different, as the Riders scored their final 11 points from the free throw line, taking a well-earned 64-57 victory.

“Bellaire is our rival and a respected rival, I have a lot of respect for Bellaire. This game to us is everything in our season. We get to play them twice, it’s basketball, not football where you get to play them once, so the two games that we get to play Bellaire we have a bit more of an edge to us,” stated Martins Ferry coach Derek Edwards of the game.

“The guys really battled through a lot of adversity tonight on the road. Bellaire made some tough shots, especially from the perimeter. They were on fire. On the road, the opposing team is going to shoot a little better, but we hung in there and we were able to close it out.”

“We played well, we played hard, but you are supposed to play hard. I’m not into moral victories, I never have been. They are like junk food, a waste of time,” Bellaire coach J.R. Battista noted following the contest. “We have improved and keep improving, and so has Ferry. They have gotten better too and they made some plays that I wasn’t sure they would be able to make and they did, and they made foul shots down the stretch to keep us at bay, and that’s why they won and we didn’t. There is this thing called hinge plays, the game hinges on this play. They made them and we didn’t, and not for lack of effort. We are trying. We are close, we just can’t get over that hump. Hopefully we do one day soon.”

The Riders (8-5) took the opening tip and roared to a 5-0 lead before the Big Reds (2-11) stormed back to go up 6-5 on threes from David Zwack and Andrew Littell. Both squads managed to play even up through out most of the first quarter, however the hosts hit a dry spell, failing to net a point after Littell hit two of three free throws at the 2:42 mark. This allowed the Riders to impose their will, ending the period on a 9-0 run behind smooth shooting from Jazin Miles, Davion Ray and Ruben Hilson.

The Big Reds did not go away quietly, however storming back with buckets from Zwack and a trey and two-pointer from Owen Ward to close the gap to four, which is where it stood over most of the course of the second. Bellaire managed to outscore the riders 6-2 over the final 4:04 of the second, leaving Martins Ferry up 28-26 at the break,

The third period was a back and forth affair that saw the Big Reds take the lead 35-34 on a Zwack 3-pointer, and the Riders go back up on a tough inside basket by Miles. Ferry clamped down at the end of the quarter, holding a 45-40 lead, however Miles was the story of the quarter. The 6-4 sophomore was 5 of 5 from the floor and 3 of 3 from the line in the third to spearhead the Riders’ attack.

Bellaire could not seem to get the lead below four in the final frame, as the Riders matched them shot for shot. It was around the two-minute mark that Bellaire employed a fouling strategy to slow the visitors’ offensive attack, however the Riders managed to go 13-19 from the line in the final eight minutes and were precise in the final stretch. The Big Reds had a last gasp, closing the gap to three on a Creed Rhodes basket and following free throw that came from a clutch Jaren Cash steal, however those were the final points the hosts scored.

Miles finished with a double-double, netting 23 points to go with 12 rebounds. Hilson added 19 points with Ray scoring 12. Zwack led a trio of Big Reds in double figures with 19 points. Trenton Wilson scored 15 and Littell also garnered a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.

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