PORT BYRON — There’s nothing more exciting.
Standing-room-only crowd, rambunctious fans for both teams, a wild finish.
On Friday night at the Riverdale High School gymnasium, filled to the rafters and then some, the Bureau Valley Storm made the proper adjustments and took over the boys' basketball game in the fourth quarter to come from behind and stun the ninth-ranked Sterling Newman Comets in the Class 2A sectional championship game.
Bureau Valley waited until just 3 minutes were left in the game to take their first lead, and held on with clutch shooting, especially at the free throw line, for a 56-49 decision. With the big victory, the Storm (20-10) will travel to DeKalb for their super-sectional match-up on Tuesday. Sterling Newman’s excellent season ended with a final record of 32-4.
“We kept the game close in the first half, and only trailed by three at the end of the third period, so we knew we had a chance if we could contain Newman’s inside scoring,” said Bureau Valley coach Jason Marquis. “And we also had to protect the ball, and keep them from converting easy scoring opportunities off of our turnovers, and Kale Barnett and Tyler Gustafson did an exceptional job for us in the second half, I couldn’t be more proud of our team effort.”
Bureau Valley senior guard Kale Barnett scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half, converting 7 of 9 free throws in clutch situations with the game on the line. “It is such an awesome feeling, we never gave up and stayed with our game plan, and our team defense in the second half was the difference,” said Barnett.
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Senior guard Tyler Gustafson finished the game with 14 points, knocking down four 3-pointers. Senior forward Nate Paup contributed 9 points and 7 rebounds for the Storm, and senior big-man Ben Shipp added 6 points and 6 boards, and played outstanding defense on Newman’s 6-foot-7 junior forward Devon House down the stretch.
Trailing by 5 with six minutes in the game, the Storm kept their cool, chipped away, and captured the lead at the 3 minute mark, 48-47. At that point, the crowd noise reached a deafening peak, and Newman coach Ray Sharp called a critical timeout.
But Bureau Valley simply refused to relinquish the momentum, and led by Barnett, controlled the pace of the final minutes, hit their free throws when Newman was forced to foul, and when the buzzer sounded to signal the sectional championship was won, the boisterous Bureau Valley student section stormed the floor in celebration.
“We refused to quit, and refused to lose, and now we are going to be really tough to beat going forward,” said Ben Shipp.
“Sterling Newman is an exceptional team, and we congratulate them on an outstanding year, but here come the Storm!"
Newman was paced by House’s outstanding effort with 24 points and 7 rebounds, and freshman forward Marcus Williams with 17 points and 7 steals.