Two out of three ain't bad

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By Mike Forster

While the girls were putting three county teams into the Regionals, the boys were holding up their end as both Liberty and Jefferson Forest earned tickets to the next level. The Minutemen topped Staunton River in a bruising affair by the score of 75-50. The Cavaliers beat perennial powerhouse Heritage in a back-and-forth affair by the score of 47-43.

With Brookville having won the regular season title, Liberty and Forest will spend the remainder of this week trying to earn a coveted second seed and the Regional home opener that comes with it.

The two are also vying for a shot at the District tournament title. Liberty played Rustburg and Forest played Brookville on Wednesday night. The winners of those games will meet on Friday night at Jefferson Forest's new gym.

Regional play opens Monday night per the bracket that accompanies this article.

Battle in Bedford

While Liberty dominated their southern cousins in the 75-50 win, the Minutemen came away with their share of bumps and bruises. The Eagles were breaking out the ice packs as well, with Liberty giving as good as they got.

Martrey Stevens put the stake into the Eagle heart early in the second period. After his three-pointer was matched by Staunton River sharpshooter Mike Lynch, Stevens drove the paint to pick up the bucket and the hack, which he converted. He next pegged another trey, this time from 11 o'clock on the arc. The resulting 15 point lead, in effect, quashed any chance of an Eagle upset.

Augmenting Stevens, and leading the way for the Minutemen, was Chris Harmon who had another sparkling game. The junior put up his 27 points by every imaginable means: three pointers (2), drives through the middle, vaunts through the baseline and fiercely fought putbacks.

The only shot missing from Harmon's multifaceted repertoire seemed to be the "blow out the candle on the cupcake" dunk which was unveiled this weekend by Minnesota Timberwolf player Gerald Green.

Mike Lynch and James Bell, in their final games wearing the gold and black, led Staunton River with 18 and 11 points, respectively.

This game was won, to a large extent through the physical strength of the Minutemen, who clearly brought more muscle to the fore than did the Eagles. "They had 15 weight room points by halftime," remarked Staunton River Head Coach Chris Carr. Bell seemed to be the only Eagle who matched up size-wise with the Minutemen.

Nonetheless, the Eagles didn't back down from their formidable opponent. It often seemed that more bodies were hitting the floor than balls were hitting the hoop. It was rough, but it was clean.

Following the game, Liberty Head Coach Jeff Monroe was already looking forward to the continuation of the playoffs. "We'd like to get the home game," said Monroe. "We're looking forward to the Region."

When asked of his chances in powerful Region 3, Monroe replied, "It doesn't matter who we play. We're capable of beating any of them."

The coach's words are backed up by the Minutemen's earlier season victory over Southern Valley District top seed R.E. Lee. Liberty also lost a squeaker in its first game against Brookville, but was soundly trounced when it visited the Bees later.

"We must play better than we did at Brookville," stated Monroe. "We're capable (of beating anybody) when we play smart."

Price, Harrison lead Cavs

Jefferson Forest continued its surprisingly good year, earning a trip to the Regionals by way of the 47-43 win over Heritage. As a result, the Pioneers will sit out the Regionals for the first time in ages.

"The game could have gone either way," said Cav Head Coach Paul Smith. "We just got the plays at the end."

The Cavaliers were paced by Ted Price's 20 points and Brandon Harrison's 15. Heritage's Tevan Crews had 16 to lead the Pioneers.

Forest raced out to a 10 point lead in the first half before Heritage clawed back to even things up in the third quarter.

After Heritage took the lead, it seemed that Forest was doomed. However, Harrison made some key plays and Price made a seven out of eight free throws down the stretch to pull out the game. For the evening, Price nailed 14 from the charity stripe in addition to playing his hard-nosed inside game.

"With Ted, it's never pretty," remarked Smith. "But he gets it done."

The Cavs used a mix of man-to-man and zone defenses to thwart the speedy Pioneers.

Of his team's qualifying for the Region, Smith stated, "We're excited. It was one of our goals at the start of the season."

At the start of the season, that didn't seem like a very realistic objective, but the Cavs have shown themselves to be a bunch that doesn't give up easily. The team leads with its chin and is slow to back down, if it does so at all.