Bucs season ends with 60-44 first round loss in sectional tournament

#23 sophomore forward Ian Strader hits a right-handed hook shot in the paint during Tuesday night’s loss to the Bridgeport Indians in the first-round of the sectional tournament. Strader scored 6 points in the 60-44 loss which ended the Bucs season. ROBERTA HATCHER/The Record Delta

TENNERTON — A short-handed Buckhannon-Upshur varsity boys basketball team (9-13), coming fresh off a loss to #5-ranked South Charleston Black Eagles back on Wednesday, February 23 in their regular season finale, welcomed the Bridgeport Indians (8-11) to town for the first-round of the Region I, Section II tournament. 

Earlier in the season, Head Coach Travis Foster and his team beat the Indians, in Bridgeport, by a final score of 53-40. They sought to replicate this same success at home in a “win-or-go home” scenario.

Senior forward Lamar Hurst won the tip, giving the Bucs an opening possession; however, they failed to capitalize on this early opportunity to establish a solid rhythm by turning the ball over. The early portion of the first quarter was defined by the Bucs inability to keep the Indians off the offensive glass and a string of early turnovers, which paired together, allowed Bridgeport to get out to a 7-0 run to start the game. Needing to compose his team, Foster called a timeout with 4:12 to go in the first quarter. The timeout seemed to breathe some life in the Buccaneer’s offense, getting on the board with a possession following the timeout on a fadeaway mid-range jumper from Hurst. Sophomore forward Westfall leveraged his height advantage in the post for good position on the block, scoring the Bucs last two field goals of the quarter in the paint. At the end of the first quarter, the Bucs faced a 10-point, 16-6 deficit at the end of the first quarter.

The Bucs played better offensively in the second quarter but failed to cut into the Indians lead. At the end of the second quarter, senior combo guard Harrison Walker scored 7 of the team’s 11 points in the quarter after catching fire in the waning minutes of the half. Despite a valiant effort to stay in the game, the Bucs found themselves heading into the locker-room trailing, 28-17. 11 first-half turnovers proved to be the main culprit behind the team’s struggles.

After Bridgeport hit a floater to start the second half, Walker responded by hitting a floater for the Bucs first points of the quarter. However, after a scary sequence on the very next possession, Walker exited the game after reaggravating an injury that had limited him in the latter stages of the season. Following his bucket and exit, the Indians extended their lead with an 8-0 run before Hurst mounted a 4-0 one-man scoring run of his own, capped off by a fadeaway mid-ranger jumper through contact and a successfully converted “and-one”.

Despite nearly cutting the lead to single digits, the Bucs could not seem to come up with the key stops needed to mount a serious run. Entering the fourth quarter, the Bucs trailed 48-32. The fourth quarter saw Hurst foul out with 2:16 left, marking his last time in a Buccaneer uniform following a very successful career. This emotional moment also allowed for a glimpse at the program’s future as freshman Carter Zuliani was subbed in to close out the game. 

Zuliani pulled down a pair of rebounds and scored on a putback lay-up in the game’s closing seconds to cap off a solid individual showing in limited action. In the end, the Bucs lost to the Indians at home by a final score of 60-44, bringing their season to an end. 

Zuliani paired with sophomore forwards Ian Strader and Westfall, as well as junior point guard Zach Calef-Boring and junior Shawn Blandino, are poised to form a solid core of returning varsity contributors for next year’s team.

Offensively, Hurst paced the Bucs, finished the game with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assist and 1 block. Before his injury, Walker had put together a strong game with a statline of 8 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist. Westfall and Strader were as effective of a duo as ever, with Jaden finishing with 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists, while Ian recorded 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block. 

In his final basketball game as Buc, Sterling Thropp scored 4 points, pulled down 3 rebounds, dished out 2 assists and came away with 2 steals. Thropp was one of the emotional leaders of this team all season long, with his outstanding perimeter defense playing a key role in some of the Bucs biggest victories this season. 

Boring ended the night with 3 points, 3 assists, 2 rebound and 2 steals, Blandino scored 2 points and pulled down 3 rebounds, while Zuliani scored 2 points and pulled down 2 rebounds to wrap up the varsity Bucs 60-44 season-ending loss to Bridgeport. 

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