Momentum is only as good as your next shot.
At the halfway point of Pioneer Valley League play, the Bear River boys basketball squad had the stage set for a huge win, its first PVL win, on its home court and appeared to have all the momentum in its favor.
Much to the displeasure of Bruin Nation, what appeared to be lightning in a bottle was quickly stolen as Bear River’s offense collapsed and rival Colfax cruised through the second half for 63-46 win Thursday night at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium.
“We went cold,” said Bear River assistant coach Matt MacDonald, who filled in on behalf of absent head coach Duwaine Ganskie. “The key difference was that we just didn’t rebound.”
Seniors Braden Duncan and Charlie Espinoza ignited the offense and simply could not be stopped during the second quarter.
Once trailing 10-4, the Bruins battled back to keep things close with clutch 3-pointers from senior Jake Sypnicki and sophomore Ben O’Lena. The team managed to slow Colfax down inside as it opened a 20-point scoring spree that ended with a 6-0 run to grab a 32-28 lead at the break.
Falcons’ big man, 6-foot, 5-inch senior Kevin Zachman, made it look easy in the paint, scoring nine points in the first quarter to help his team jump out front. He’d secure great position inside, then simply catch a pass, turn around and go up with it. Bear River held him to just one score in the second quarter, but Zachman returned to form in the second half, playing like a man among boys. He went on to finish with a game-high 25 points and 10 boards to go with two blocks.
“We didn’t have an answer,” MacDonald said. “We shut him down in the second quarter. We got (Jordan) Balser into foul trouble. He had three in the first half but only one the rest of the way. It just didn’t happen. Shots that fell early on just weren’t going. We just went cold.”
Bruin Nation had plenty to cheer about in the second period when Espinoza flat-out took over. He dropped in 10 of his 17 points, including the half’s final bucket, with a nifty fake in the lane that allowed him to float up a shot before time expired. He also scored on four consecutive offensive trips for the Bruins, zig-zagging through traffic all the way to the hoop before Colfax could close the gap.
Duncan was also hot early on, knocking down a pair of shots from downtown. He cashed in 12 points in the first half but went on to add just one more basket the rest of the way to finish with 14 points and three boards. Bruins big man Jared Skowronski helped swing the momentum in Bear River’s favor after taking a charge with the game tied 22-22. Fast and furious, Espinoza took it to the hole on the Bruins’ next possession for a 24-22 advantage, the team’s first lead since it led 2-0.
“We have to rebound better,” added MacDonald. “We didn’t make an effort to get to the glass. (Early) we had good ball movement and got to the rim.”
Bear River finished the game without an offensive rebound, something much needed in the latter half of the game when shots weren’t going in. The draught was officially on in the second half for the Bruins, as they were outscored 24-7 in the third quarter and only added seven more in the fourth.
Aside from Zachman setting up camp down low, Falcons’ senior point guard Balser chipped in 14 points to go with six boards. Senior guard Mike Wilson also proved to be an impactful player from the outside, adding a pair of 3s on his way to 12 points. The victory ends a two-game losing streak for Colfax (12-10, 2-3 PVL).
Meanwhile the Bruins (8-11, 0-5 PVL) sit in the PVL cellar needing a miracle turnaround in the second half of the season to have an outside shot at a playoff spot. The team will have all they can handle Wednesday when it hosts division leader, Center.
Brian Shepard is a free lance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.