THREE OAKS — Bridgman and River Valley battled into overtime on Friday, Jan. 4, with the visiting Bees parlaying a clutch three-point shot and steady free-throw shooting into a 45-44 victory.
The extra session began with a three-point bomb by River Valley’s Jacob Barbour, but Luke Blesy answered for the Bees to forge a 39-all tie.
“My teammates did a good job of finding me, and I was able to knock down that shot in overtime,” Blesy said.
The next 2-plus minutes featured a parade of Bees to the foul line. And Jayce Warren, Jackson Schmaltz and Blesy went 6-for-8 to open up a 45-39 margin with just 14 ticks of the clock remaining.
Bridgman, looking to avoid a late foul, gave Matthew Schmidt an open lay-up with about three seconds to go. Schmidt got his hands on the basketball one more time and heaved a three-quarter court buzzer-beater that stunned all in attendance — but still left the home team one point short of victory.
“I’m happy to make it 22 years in a row,” said Bridgman senior Alec Goff, referencing the long-running Bridgman win streak against the Mustangs.
Bridgman led 10-5 after one quarter of play, with Blesy knocking down and two three-pointers and 30 also connecting from three-point land.
The five-point lead endured through the second stanza. Three-point hoops from Schmidt and Lennon Lange along with 5’s scoop shot cut the margin down to three points (18-15) before Henry Branch cashed in an offensive rebound to beat the buzzer and give the Bees a 20-15 half-time advantage.
The Mustangs surged on top in the third quarter as Will Korbel scored through a foul and Schmidt sank consecutive “3s” to build a 24-22 lead.
But Warren answered from the three-point zone for Bridgman to make is 25-24, Lange drove to the basket for a 26-25 RV lead, and Schmaltz scored off his offensive board to send the Bees into the fourth period on top 27-26.
Early fourth quarter baskets by Korbel and Davyd Bronson vaulted River Valley into the lead 32-29, but the Bees bounced back on the strength of foul shots from Schmaltz and a Blesy “3” to take charge 35-32.
Two free throws from Korbel followed by Josh Clark’s steal and lay-up at the 2:29 mark made it 36-36 in River Valley’s favor.
Bridgman was able to force overtime when Branch went 1-for-2 from the stripe with 1:29 showing on the clock. Schmidt narrowly missed a lay-up and the Bees proceeded to run clock before Warren’s late heave failed to fall.
Bridgman coach Mike Miller said freshman guard Jace Warren didn’t give up any baskets to Schmidt when he was guarding him.
“I had to move my feet and keep a hand up in his face so he wouldn’t shoot the ball,” Warren noted.
Miller said he thought Kristian Dalton and Schmaltz did a good job guarding Will Korbel.
“Our identity this year is to be a really good, scrappy defensive team. And I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
Blesy paced the Bees with 17 points. Schmaltz scored 12 points, Branch tallied 9 points and Warren added 8.
Schmidt finished with 14 points while Korbel added 13 for River Valley.