BROOKVILLE â€” Saturday night's match-up against Elk County Catholic (12-9, 6-3 D-IX League) was a big test for the Raiders heading into the final week of the regular season.
Brookville (16-4, 6-3 D-IX League) stormed out to an early lead, but the Crusaders turned the tables and pushed the game to overtime.
But only one shot mattered â€” the game-winning shot by Elk County's Brock McCullough with seven seconds remaining in overtime for the 34-32 victory over Brookville.
"(We) were obviously disappointed in the way (we) played, and I'll give Elk County credit: They took us out of a lot of things we like to do," Brookville head coach Bud Baughman said. "They played hard, and I thought our kids played hard. They just made one more play than we did."
The Crusaders had a chance to win it in regulation, but with two seconds left, Brookville senior Zane Hackett had an ever-important block, and the game headed to extra time.
With the score knotted at 32, the Raiders started with the ball. Senior Austin Burney missed a shot inside, and sophomore Jack Huggins pulled down the rebound.
As Huggins went up for the shot with just over three minutes remaining in overtime, he was fouled. He missed both shots, and the Crusaders earned back the ball.
Elk County's strategy was to hold the ball until the last second, and it worked. McCullough's two points with seven seconds left proved to be the answer.
"I don't like to hold the ball for lengthy periods of times," Baughman said of Elk County's decision to play keepaway. "It's not my style. It is effective, but it's not my style."
The Raiders had one last chance on the offensive side, but the last-ditch effort by Seth Connor missed the mark, and Elk County had won.
The game began strong for Brookville, as it started the game on a 13-2 run and continued to lead 18-12 at halftime.
But Elk County began to battle back in the third quarter, and with a last-second two-pointer, the Crusaders trailed by just two heading into the final period of regulation.
In the fourth quarter, the Crusaders immediately tied the game at 23, but they did not take the lead until there was only 3:43 left.
Nate Shirts put the Raiders back on top, though, scoring his only points of the game with a three-pointer.
Elk County then took the lead back with two successful free throws, but Burney hit a foul shot of his own to tie it at 32.
Brookville also had a chance to win the game in regulation, but when Connor went up for a two-pointer, he was hit with a charge.
Hackett then saved the game with his block, but overtime proved to be too much for the Raiders.
Burney led Brookville's scoring effort with eight points.
Although Hackett's double-double streak was finally broken, as he earned just seven points and eight rebounds, he did shine with six blocked shots.
Offensive rebounding was a challenge for Brookville, and Baughman said that was one area in which he hopes to improve before the playoffs begin.
"I think they were just putting so much defensive pressure on Zane," Baughman said. "We need to get more people to the boards besides him. That's probably something we need to work on."
Friday night was more satisfying for the Raiders, as they beat Bradford (10-10, 3-5 D-IX League) 34-32 with a last-minute three-pointer by Connor.
It was Brookville which battled back from an early deficit, and the Raiders were trailing 32-31 until Connor hit a jumper from beyond the arc with 10 seconds remaining.
"He is such a hard worker; it couldn't have happened to a better kid," Baughman said. "As soon as he released it, I knew it was in. ... He works so hard on the defensive end, and he got rewarded (Friday night) with a big shot."
The Raiders trailed by as many as 13 in the first half, but they continued to battle back. Sebastian Kerr hit a three-pointer at the first half buzzer to cut the lead to 21-15 in favor of the Owls.
"Bradford played a tremendous game," Baughman said.
"I thought they outplayed us and outhustled us for the entire first half, and I thought we were very lucky to only be down six."
But Baughman's team was not discouraged by the rough start, and in the second half, the Raiders began to play the defensive game for which they are known.
"I just think the kids again picked it up defensively and played harder," Baughman said. "I told them at halftime, I said, 'We've been down a lot more than this, and we came back and won.' So they just decided they were going to go out and play harder, and I think that's what made the difference in the second half.
The Raiders held Brad-ford to just seven points in the third quarter, while scoring 14 of their own to lead 29-28 before the final stanza.
Turnovers were also a big difference for Brookville in the second half.
The Raiders had 13 turnovers in the first half but controlled the ball much better and committed just six in the latter half.
"We tightened it up the second half and did much better that way," Baughman said. "I thought especially in the second half, our guards picked it up and played much harder."
Defense was the star for both teams in the fourth quarter, and Bradford led as the final seconds were ticking off.
Connor, who had not had the best offensive game, stepped up to the plate with the game-winning three-pointer.
"The last sequence, we ran basically a motion set," Baughman said of the final seconds. "Seth worked himself free, and he had not choice but to shoot it. Because when you shoot like that, you have Zane working for a rebound, so I felt pretty safe about it."
Hackett had another noteworthy showing for the Raiders, with 12 points and an impressive 20 rebounds. He also had seven blocks.
Connor totaled nine points, while Burney tallied eight to help the Raiders to victory.
The Raiders have been working without the help of senior starter Tighe Truman, who has missed the last three games due to injury. Baughman said he has been impressed with how some of his younger kids have stepped up.
"It has been a tough adjustment," Baughman said. "We're having about three different kids play his spot, and hopefully, we can continue to get production out of those kids as we go down the road here."
The Raiders will wrap up their regular season this week, visiting DuBois Central Catholic at 6 p.m. tonight before their final game Wednesday night against DuBois.
Despite dropping a D-IX League game to Elk County, Baughman knows how important the final game against DuBois will be, and he said his team will be motivated and prepared.
"That won't be hard; we have DuBois on our floor (Wednesday)," Baughman said. "I think (the kids will) be mentally and physically ready to go against DuBois, and we'll see who the best team is."
The D-IX League title is still up for grabs for at least three teams. DuBois is currently sitting at No. 1 with seven wins and two losses in the league, while both Brookville and Elk County are tied for second at 6-3 in the league.View more articles in: