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Southern Wells tops Eastbrook boys in OT

BREAKAWAY: Eastbrook’s Dylan Bragg goes up for two of his game-high 24 points, but the Panthers dropped a hard-fought battle with Southern Wells, 64-59 in overtime.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

It’s hard to be sharp after just six practices together, and while the Eastbrook boys basketball team has shown some encouraging signs through its first two games, the Panthers still need a little polishing.

Of course that is most every team right now. 

The Panthers opened Saturday night with a tough one-point loss to Eastern on a Comet free throw with just 0.6 seconds remaining. 

With Southern Wells visiting on Tuesday, Dylan Bragg knocked down a long three-pointer with 11 seconds remaining to tie it at 56, and a missed free throw by the Raiders set up a shot to win. But Brandon Huber’s game-winning attempt bounded off the rim to force overtime.

There, despite not making a field goal in OT period, Southern Wells limited the Panthers to just another late three by Bragg and hit 8-of-10 from the free throw line to escape with a 64-59 win.

“They competed. Our kids played hard. When we’ve not had a lot of practice time together as a full group, that’s hard to do,” said Panthers’ coach Greg Allison. “That’s what I’ve asked them to do. I’ve asked them to compete. ...We just have a lot to improve. We have a long way to go. I didn’t think we were very focused to start out with.”

And indeed, the Panthers lack of focus proved costly at the end. Eastbrook jumped in front, 6-2 on pair of Garrett Holder threes before Southern Wells used a 15-4 run to take a 17-10 lead after one.

Eastbrook controlled the game through the second quarter, limiting the Raiders to just 2-of-11 from the field and six points. The Panthers also closed with a flurry offensively by burying four or their five triples in the final two minutes, three by Bragg and another by Brandon Huber, to take a 29-23 lead to half.

After missing all five of its three-point attempts in the first half, Southern Wells hit 4-of-8 in the third quarter and the game was tied at 41 entering the final eight minutes. 

The Raiders opened up a 47-43 lead to start the final period, and though that was their biggest lead, they would also not surrender it. The Panthers tied it at 49 before Dylan Junk drained a three to put Southern Wells up 52-49. 

Twice more Southern Wells extended the lead to three, Alex Baker and Bryce Schamber responded with buckets to cut the deficit back to one. A pair of free throws by Kriegh Roush put the Raiders up 56-53 with 22 seconds to play before Bragg hit his game-tying three. Roush then missed the front end of a bonus situation but Huber’s’ 25-footer was long.

The Panthers made just 1-for-9 from the field in OT and didn’t attempt a free throw. Southern Wells was 0-for-4 from the field and 8-of-10 from the line.

For the game, the more physical Southern Wells made 15-of-23 free throws while the Panthers were just 1-of-7.

“We missed a lot of bunnies, a lot of layups anticipating some contact that didn’t come or simply (not) playing through contact,” Allison said. “We’ve had so many kids with injuries it’s been hard to get the dummies out and have them play through contact because I couldn’t afford to get another kid hurt.”

Allison has had just six days to work with the Eastbrook football players, and Baker and Justin Singer played for the first time this season as each is nursing an injury from the 2A state championship football game.

Bragg netted a game-high 24, Holder finished with 13, Huber added 10 and Baker scored eight. Holder also grabbed 11 rebounds and Huber had six.

“I’m not discouraged at all. We’ve had two games and six practices with everybody,” Allison said. “Not a lot of time to correct mistakes from Saturday and unfortunately not a lot of time to correct mistakes tonight until we go play probably the best team we play on the schedule at Frankton, so that will be a big challenge for us.”

Eastbrook (0-2) faces one of the top 2A teams in the state in Frankton on Friday as part of a girls/boys doubleheader. The Panthers then host Norwell on Saturday.

“It’s a tough stretch for the kids to not have many practices and then play four games,” Allison said. “Regardless of the score of games, if we come in and compete and we battle and play together,. that’s all we can really ask for as coaches. I think the wins and losses will take care of itself.

“We didn’t compete well in the first quarter but from that point on we competed better,” he added. “That’s what we’re looking for here with this tough stretch.”