Thursday, February 20, 2014
Blackville-Hilda challenged the perfect region record of Fox Creek.
Just like in the 10 region games before, the Predators (19-4, 11-0 region 4A) prevailed.
“First off, I want to give credit to Blackville, because they came at us as hard as they could,” Andrew Peckham, Fox Creek’s head coach, said. “They gave us everything, and sometimes when you’re top dog in the region, undefeated, you’re gonna get everybody’s best shot. Just because we beat them by double digits or whatever last time we played them, at our place, didn’t mean (anything). We had that layoff and hadn’t been able to practice with the weather, but they’ve (Blackville-Hilda) had the same weather conditions. They wanted the game more than we did, especially early on.”
Blackville-Hilda regrouped from the 60-41 loss at Fox Creek on Jan. 17 and challenged the flow of the Predator offense.
“Blackville played a zone last game; they didn’t play any man,” Peckham said. “They came out (tonight) playing half-court man and played man the entire game, and they were pressing us, so we had a hard time getting into our half-court offense. We were settling for some jumpers, some outside shots that weren’t falling. Sometimes with these guys, when they’re not hitting early, they get a little discouraged. We were able to regroup and get some easier buckets and execute our stuff a little better in the second half.”
Blackville-Hilda took a 28-27 lead into the half but couldn’t outduel Fox Creek down the stretch, with big plays by Corrin Cannon and Caleb Veihman – who was fouled on a 3-point attempt as time expired in the third quarter – pushing the lead to 51-47 going into the fourth quarter.
“We were making a run, and I was just happy to get to the line,” Veihman said on his trip to the line. “I wasn’t nervous at all; I knew I was going to make my free throws. No pressure at all.”
Veihman, a self-proclaimed defensive player, attacked the offensive glass for the Predators to bring extra possessions.
“Coach said this team (Blackville-Hilda) was borderline on getting into the playoffs, so we knew they were going to give us their best,” he said. “I’m not much of an offensive player; I know my role is more of a defensive and a hustle player, so I just tried to give us the best chance. I tried to give Marques (Sumner), (Brandyn) Quiller and Cannon more opportunities to get to the glass, to the line and score for us.”
Peckham’s squad used the momentum from Cannon’s and Veihman’s big plays to win the game in the final frame.
“We challenged the guys in the fourth quarter that good teams find a way to win a game like, this and we found a way,” Peckham said. “With all that pressure, we hit some big free throws and big shots down the stretch. Even though we made some errors that we’ve got to correct, with the playoffs coming, we don’t have much time, but I think this is a game we’ll learn from. We’ll benefit from it, having to play well down the stretch to win the game, come playoff time.”
During crunch time, Peckham and the Predators turned to one of the best players in the state – Sumner – to bring the victory home.
“(Marques) hitting those free throws down the stretch was huge,” Peckham said. “That’s what a captain and a leader’s gotta do. For him to drain those free throws, give us that cushion and kinda seal the game was great. Those are the kinds of plays and shots he has to make, and he did.”
Sumner, who hit the final two free throws to put Fox Creek up by three, willed his team to victory in the fourth quarter.
“I was thinking ‘win, win, win,’” he said. “I think at one point we were down, we ran our special play to run some time off the clock, and we made a run. They fouled me a few times (in the fourth), which is hard to do because I hardly miss free throws. I knocked down those free throws, and we iced the game. It was a good test for us, being off on the break and not being able to practice. That messed us up, but it showed us that we can beat anybody and that anybody can compete with us. So, we had to set our minds right when we were down and we came out with a big win.”
Fox Creek is scheduled to play Williston-Elko on Tuesday and will begin the playoffs on Thursday at Riverview Park Activities Center.
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for the North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.