With the entire starting five returning from last years Section 3 Class C boys basketball runner-ups, the pressure to go a step farther this season mounted as Beaver River began another run to the Carrier Dome.
But to watch the Beavers, playing free and relaxed under the most trying of circumstances, you would have thought they were playing a pick-up game with friends.
With Tully threatening to get back in the game, trailing by just seven points entering the fourth quarter of Tuesday nights Class C-1 final at Jefferson Community College, Beaver River delivered the knockout punch with stunning swiftness. The top-seeded Beavers made seven 3-pointers in the final seven minutes and pulled away for a resounding 77-58 victory.
Beaver River (20-1) will play Class C-2 champion Mohawk (20-1), a 68-46 winner over Fabius-Pompey, for the overall Class C title and a state tournament berth at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Carrier Dome. Beaver River defeated Mohawk 70-59 in last years Class C semifinals.
Senior Tarren Farney (12 points) knocked down a trio of threes in that final run, while fellow seniors senior Zach Steiner (17) and Samuel Widrick (22) hit two 3-pointers apiece as the Beavers scored 31 points over the final eight minutes.
Instead of slowing things down with a lead, trying to run some clock, the Beavers kept attacking. As Steiner said afterward, We dont have a slow down button for our offense.
Beaver River coach Lynn Petzoldt trusts his kids so much that he gives them the green light to fire when open. During the last timeout, I told them we dont need to keep shooting, Petzoldt said. But they kept making those shots so we didnt want to take away our momentum.
Senior forward Alex Hall scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as Beaver River, ranked fifth in the state this week, earned its eighth Section 3 title, but first since 1996. Hall said the key to the Beavers making another championship run was learning how to get along and play for each other.
Widrick, who finished with four 3-pointers, said this team just has so much trust in each other. Weve got a bunch of seniors who know how to win, and then have put in the time to get better as the season went along.
Beaver River actually fell behind 13-10 in the first quarter as Tullys Daniel Morse hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer. But the Beavers full-court press slowed the Black Knights down the second quarter, limiting them to 13 points.
Meanwhile, the Beaver River offense kicked into gear behind six points from Hall and 10 from Widrick, including back-to-back threes to end the half.
Morse actually hit a half-court shot at the buzzer that was ruled too late.
They really wanted to run, so our press made them slow it down and run the offense in the half court, Petzoldt said. You could tell they werent as comfortable
The Beavers got a little sloppy in the third quarter, turning the ball over six times and allowing Tully to creep within 42-39 with a minute left in the period. But Hall scored inside and then made a follow shot at the buzzer to extend the lead back to seven points.
However, no one could have predicted such a wild final eight minutes.
Widrick canned a three in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, and then another a minute later.
Steiner and Farney then drained back-to-back threes, and Farney also converted a three-point play to extend the Beavers lead to 61-46.
A Farney corner 3-pointer brought the lead to 65-46 as the huge Beaver River contingent went nuts. And for good measure, Steiner and Farney hit two more bombs in the final minute.
All I could think was, wow!, Hall said of all of those shots going in. They were doubling me a lot, so that left our guys open on the perimeter. And we just made everything.
Tully coach Ryan Dando credited the Beavers. They really got hot, Dando said. I dont know if they missed any threes in the fourth quarter. And the Hall kid is a real game-changer.