Tuesday, February 14, 2012

SPORTS >> Badgers get revenge against Tech

Leader sportswriter

There was no love lost between Beebe and Greene County Tech as the Badgers fought their way to a 50-47 victory over the Eagles at Badger Sports Arena on Friday.

The game was physical from the opening tip and only intensified as the capacity crowd gave the 5A-East Conference showdown a state-tournament feel. Technical fouls, a rowdy Beebe student section and even an ejected Tech cheerleader in the second half added to the rivalry atmosphere.

“The persona Tech puts up kind of makes for the rivalry,” Beebe coach Ryan Marshall said. “And the kids really get after each other. From the T-up on, it was as physical and competitive as it could be.”

Five points was the biggest margin enjoyed by either team in the back-and-forth affair that saw eight lead changes. The Eagles led the entire fourth quarter until Jake Schlenker’s three pointer with 1:03 left to play gave the Badgers a 44-42 lead. Andrew Hovus answered for Tech with a three-point shot to briefly swing the lead the other way, but Beebe senior forward Braden Jones got the lead back for the Badgers with a putback with 32 seconds left to play.

Senior post player Dayton Scott led the Badgers with 16 points, including perhaps the most important bucket of the night for Beebe with just over 10 seconds remaining to give the Badgers a 48-45 lead. Hovus made his way to the foul line for two free throws to cut it back to one, and the Eagles got a quick foul on Beebe’s Tanner Chapman with 5.8 seconds remaining.

Chapman’s free-throw shooting had been instrumental in aiding Beebe’s comeback midway through the fourth, and the underclassman came up big one more time for the Badgers by hitting both ends of his final trip to set the final margin.

“He missed two early on that technical foul, but he was 4 for 4 down the stretch,” Marshall said of Chapman’s performance at the line. “That’s something we have not been getting from some of them. He didn’t go up there like a sophomore; he stepped up there with maturity like a kid with confidence.”

Tech was trying to set up Ferguson for a last shot to take the lead in the closing seconds, but Schlenker blocked the shot. That resulted in a wild scramble for the ball. Jones came up with the loose ball for Beebe and quickly got it out to Scott, who put a big exclamation point on the game with a dunk that gave the Badgers a 48-45 lead with 12 seconds remaining and sent the home crowd into delirium.

The victory avenged an earlier East road loss for the Badgers, who now sit second in the league standings at 7-3 behind 10-0 Forrest City. Tech fell into a third-place tie with Nettleton at 6-4. Beebe is now 16-6 overall.

“We thought we were the better ball club even when we lost over there,” Marshall said. “We didn’t play just great, but a lot of that had to do with Tech’s defense.”

The Badgers dominated the opening minutes of the second quarter as Scott scored inside with a putback to give Beebe a 13-12 lead with 7:13 left to play in the first half. Schlenker then hit a three-point basket to boost the lead to four, and point guard Brandon Fuller got possession for the Badgers again when he took a charge from Heath Matheny. That led to another basket by Scott off an offensive rebound to give Beebe a 17-13 lead with 4:47 remaining in the first half.

But GCT senior standout Andrew Ferguson fought back with a steal and layup. He also drew a foul from Fuller on the play and converted the follow-up free throw to quickly cut Beebe’s lead down to 17-16 with 1:28 remaining in the half.

Matheny scored inside to give the lead back to the Eagles at 18-17 with 48 seconds remaining. Scott found his way to the line for Beebe with 33 seconds left to go in the half and made both ends, but Ferguson scored again just before the buzzer to give Tech a 20-19 lead at halftime.

Things became spirited in the second half as GCT coach Scott Bowlin received a warning from officials in the third quarter and was finally hit with a technical foul to start the fourth quarter.

The inside play between post players also reached a crescendo shortly after that when Scott came to blows with Tech’s Seth Dearing. Scott retaliated an elbow by Dearing with a jab that was caught by officials, and the discussion went on for several minutes before a double-technical foul was called.

The Eagles found a way to be productive during the tense period with a steal by Matheny that led to a putback by Ferguson to give the Eagles a 34-32 lead with 7:12 remaining. Dearing then scored inside to make it 36-32 with 5:51 left to play.

Fuller cut it to two and had a chance to convert a three-point play but missed the free throw to leave it at 36-34 Tech.

Ferguson and Scott then traded baskets before Nick Cothern made it 40-36 with two successful free throws with 3:32 remaining.

Fuller missed at the line again, but Scott was there for the rebound and basket to make it 40-38.

Ferguson added two more before Chapman went to the line and cut it back to two. Fuller stole the ball on the ensuing Tech possession and quickly got it to Chapman again, and Chapman drew another foul to earn a trip to the stripe with a chance to tie. He hit the front end but missed the back as Matheny pulled down the board for the Eagles.

Chapman added 11 points for the Badgers while Schlenker finished with eight points. Zach May and Fuller each had six points for Beebe while Ferguson led Greene County Tech with 19 points.

The Badgers hosted Forrest City last night and will play at Nettleton on Friday.