Bruins down Big Red

STEUBENVILLE – In early January, Big Red and Brooke waged a classic duel on the hardwood, Mike Haney’s club escaping with a 65-63 win. Friday’s rematch inside The Crimson Center was just as good.

Eric Johnson drained seven of eight free throws down the stretch as the Bruins spoiled Big Red’s Senior Night with a thrilling 76-72 victory.

The win moves Dave Reitter’s crew to 11-7 while Big Red, which fell by five to Cambridge earlier in the week, stands at 14-5.

Johnson’s parade to the stripe started after Ryan Heaton scored from in close to put Brooke ahead 69-65 with a shade more than a minute to go. Big Red had pulled to within two (67-65) when Adam Sterling rebounded his own miss and went up strong for a hoop.

The senior made both ends of a one and one to give his team a 71-65 advantage. Periogn West counted with a conventional three-point play and it was 71-68 Bruins. Four more Johnson makes allowed the visitors to stretch their margin to seven (75-68).

Sterling got another deuce for the hosts and Johnson connected once more. Malik Young added the game’s final hoop as time expired.

“He is the right guy to the get the ball,” Reitter said of Johnson. “Everything is set up to get him the basketball on inbounds plays late in the game. We want him at the foul line and he made seven out of eight. That’s great.”

The veteran Brooke coach praised both teams for “playing as hard as they could and giving a good effort.”

“We know when we go against Mike’s team, it’s not going to be over until it’s over,” Reitter noted. “We knew it was not going to be a blow out. Even if you get up 10, you’re not safe because they can come back and hit a couple of threes. It was an outstanding game by both teams.”

Thanks to baskets by Austin Schambach, who replaced the injured Hunter Wallace in Brooke’s starting lineup, and Russell Schwertfeger, the Bruins held a 19-15 lead after the opening stanza. The first eight minutes featured seven lead changes. Schambach finished the quarter with seven points and freshman Thomas Cole added six.

A Cole hoop from the paint made it 31-25 Brooke midway through the second period. Big Red then reeled off eight straight to grab a 33-31 lead. Brandon Herring-Hill scored five of those eight and had 11 total during the quarter. The Bruins led at the break 39-37.

Both teams were red hot from the field during the initial 16 minutes. Brooke shot 55 percent (17 of 31) and Big Red 52 percent (14 for 27).

The Bruins kept up that torrid pace to open the third, hitting six of their first 10 tries to grab a 53-42 lead. Big Red closed to within three (53-50) thanks to two hoops from Adam Sterling and a West jumper. Schwertfeger scored twice and Brooke was up 59-52 going into the final quarter.

For the game, Reitter’s cagers nailed 30 of 55 field goal attempts (55 percent).

“We were able to get a lot of close shots,” Reitter pointed out. “We did take some threes and we made some. We had some nice drives and were able to get some nice shots inside. When the kids did drive, they saw Thomas (Cole) inside, they were dishing to him and he was getting some layups.”

Cole ended with 14 points. In the first half, the 6-5 freshman had 10, canning five of his seven attempts. He finished his double-double by collecting 12 of Brooke’s 34 rebounds. In addition, he swatted away four Big Red shots.

“He did a nice job,” Reitter said. “He gave us energy. He was pounding the boards and keeping the ball alive. I expect him to go out and give us a hard game. He did that tonight and we’ll take it anytime.”

As Haney noted, Big Red’s goal is to “hang our hat on our defense. They shot 55 percent from the field tonight. Credit them but our defensive effort was not as good as it needs to be.”

“They had guys open and they drained their shots,” he added. “Heaton and Schwertfeger were really knocking them down.”

Schwertfeger paced Brooke in scoring with 19. Heaton added 11, seven coming in the second quarter when he canned three of his four attempts.

“Russell’s scoring is picking up, he’s attacking the basket and doing a nice job,” Reitter said of Schwertfeger. “All the kids that played hard and aggressive.

“Schambach (who finished with 13 points) had a great floor game. He moved the ball well, handled their pressure and got the ball to the right people at the right time.”

Johnson had 16, nine coming from the line.

Big Red’s West took game scoring honors with 20. Young added 14 and got his double-double by pulling down 20 rebounds (Big Red has 44 as a team). Herring-Hill recorded 13. John Linn and Sterling evenly divided 16. Tajuan Lawson dished out six assists for the hosts.

“Losing on Senior Night is a shame” Haney noted. “We wanted our seniors to go out with a win. The work was there, we just had some breakdowns defensively and our shots weren’t falling.”

Big Red hoisted 74 field goal tries and made 27.

Senior players honored before the game are West, Young, Lawson, Linn, Glenn Purdue and Dashon Redman.

Brooke is back in action tonight, traveling to Moundsville to test John Marshall. Big Red earned the second seed for next week’s Wheeling Hospital Ohio Valley Athletic Conference tournament. Haney’s club will host Harrison Central on Tuesday in the Class 4A semifinals.

“We have the OVAC Tuesday and then it’s tournament time,” the Big Red coach said. “We can’t hang our heads. We need to get back to work, practice our individual defense and get back to the way we were playing defense earlier in the season.”