PREP BASKETBALL: Bear River tops Center, secures 2nd place in PVL
Special to The Union
BR: Gabi Corralejo - 17 points
BR: Kaylee Vieira - 13 points
BR: Erika Junge - 9 points
BR: Julia Pisenti - 9 points
Nothing could stop the Lady Bruins basketball team Tuesday night at Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium.
Bear River squared off against Pioneer Valley League foe Center in a battle to own second place outright and led wire to wire, coming out on top, 52-39.
“I was pretty happy,” said Bruins head coach Jeff Bickmore. “I thought we did some really good things offensively tonight. That’s more points than we usually score. I thought we were cutting really hard and looking for each other and trying to make the extra pass.”
Getting it done when it mattered most for Bear River was senior captain Gabi Corralejo, who led all scorers with 17 points, knocking down some clutch shots and key free throws in the final minutes to seal the victory.
“I think we really came together,” said Corralejo. “Erika (Junge) played really good defense. Julia (Pisenti) started us off pretty good. I think we all meshed together and got the win.”
Opening the game on an 8-0 run with buckets from Junge, Pisenti and Corralejo, the Bruins were firmly in control, but let their lead slip a bit after a Cougar surge brought the score to 16-13 early in the second quarter.
Quickly taking charge and regaining momentum, Corralejo fired in a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to spark an 11-0 Bruins run, capped off by another rain-maker from downtown by Vieira, good for a 27-13 lead at the half.
Coming out of the locker room still feeling the fire, Vieira, a freshman, knocked down a couple shots to extend the advantage to as many as 18 points, but Center would not go quietly.
“I was telling them it all comes down to our defense,” added Bickmore, who called a timeout after Center dropped in a pair of 3s. “I told them if you don’t get out on the shooters they may bank them in, and they banked in a couple 3s. That’s what made it close. We knew if we just settled down defensively and took care of the ball we should be OK.”
Opening the fourth quarter on a 9-3 run, the Cougars cut the deficit to nine at 43-34, but that’s as close as they would come.
Corralejo took over down the stretch, slicing to the basket for a score and the foul. She added the free throw to complete the three-point-play and went on to sink four more from the foul stripe in the closing minutes.
Rounding out the scoring for the Bruins were Vieira, who tossed in 13 points, followed by Junge and Pisenti with nine points each. Senior Katelin Holtz finished with four points, dropping in a clutch shot to stifle the Cougars’ rally late in the fourth quarter.
“Kaylee has had a really good year,” explained Bickmore, who had high praise for his talented freshman. “She keeps improving, getting better and better all the time. I’m always trying to coach her up and tell her different things to do. There’s a lot going at her, but she’s been awesome this year. Yeah, she really stepped up and did some good things.”
The win secures at least a share of second place in the PVL standings for the Bruins, assuming they can close out the season finale with another victory and perhaps give themselves a bump in playoff seeding as well.
“I was looking today on MaxPreps and we were eighth going into today so I’d imagine if we could win, with this one, and then if we could win Friday we’d have a really good chance of getting a home game,” added Bickmore. “It would be nice. Our goal going into the season was just to make the playoffs.”
Bear River (14-6, 6-3 PVL) wraps up its regular season at home at 6:30 p.m. Friday versus Lindhurst.
Brian Shepard is a freelance sports writer who contributes to The Union regularly.
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