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Season's beatings

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Rivermen stun Liberty; leave stocking full o' coal

By Mike Forster

 

Calling it a Christmas miracle might be a bit much.

Still, what the Staunton River boys basketball team did in its game with Liberty last Saturday comes close.

The Eagles surmounted a 19-point deficit in topping the visiting Minutemen by the score of 66-64.

The win will likely be considered one of the biggest in the history of Staunton River basketball.  And it came by a team with no player over 6' tall.  It is certainly the top win in the seven years this reporter has been covering the Eagles.  

It certainly didn't seem as though that might be the case, particularly in the game's early going.  The Minutemen opened the second quarter with a 10-0 run to seize a 25-6 lead.  

The Minutemen had eight players score in that first half.  Both Jamaal Preston and Chris Sharrett had seven points apiece.

But the Eagles were starting to  chip away, cutting the margin to 11 points at halftime.

"There was never a point where the kids acted like they were out of it," said River Head Coach Brandon Harris.  "All of our guys are so small, and with our injury history, you worry.  But these kids are tough as nails."

Rucker Shipp opened the second half by draining a long three, as if to tell the Eagles to put away any thoughts of a comeback.

Well, the Rivermen weren't listening.   Ramir Hunt put up five unanswered points to cut the deficit to single digits.

"To beat Liberty means a lot," said Hunt, a team captain.  "I've been looking forward to this game the whole year."

Still, another three pointer by Shipp and a pair of buckets by Preston late in the third quarter reestablished an 11-point spread going into the final stanza.

Well, that stanza had the Eagles playing the role of Grinch to Liberty's Whoville.

Tyler Fink's steal became a three-pointer by Jakob Divers, which cut the lead to eight.

River's Clay Feazell parlayed a Liberty turnover into a mere six-point lead.

Maurice Foxx nabbed a steal with Feazell getting the putback to make it a two-point game.

Liberty's Austin Porter broke the River press for an easy bucket, but Adam Wooldrige hit a trio of free throws to cut the Liberty lead to one.

Then, with two and a half minutes to play, Chase Mullins hit a bomb from one o'clock on the arc to give River its first lead of the game.

Wooldrige used every inch of his frame to come up with a putback, and Divers drained a free throw to extend the Eagle lead to five.

But Liberty wasn't done.  Dajur Mobley coolly nailed a three pointer to put the game within reach.

After River missed a pair of free throws, the Minutemen got the ball back with a handful of seconds remaining.  

"Near the end, I'm praying and I'm thinking it's probably not a big thing for you, [God]," said Harris.  "But we've been on the losing end of a lot of these types of situations."

Liberty was able to take five (unsuccessful) shots at the basket before the final buzzer sounded, signifying the Eagles had accomplished the unlikely improbable unthinkable.

Liberty Head Coach Jeff Monroe was gracious in defeat.  "Congratulations to Coach Harris and his players, for playing hard and  not giving up," said Monroe.  "They made the plays when they had to, and it paid off for them at the end."

Monroe also noted the need for him to get his charges to turn the ball over less.

 

Notes

-Liberty's Shipp led all scorers, with 17 points, including a trio of treys.  Preston added 13 to the Minutemen cause.

-Staunton River had a very balanced attack.  Hunt led the charge with 11 points.  Fellow captains Wooldrige (9 points) and Deshawn Martin (8) helped pace the Eagles.

Three sophomores chipped in eight points apiece:  Foxx, Divers and Mullins

-The win was Staunton River's second of the season.  Four games into it, the Eagles have already matched last year's victory total.

-Liberty was left with a mark of 2-3, which includes an earlier (70-47) loss at Seminole powerhouse E.C. Glass this past  week.