High School Football
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Minutemen close with 9-0 surge to edge Buckhannon-Upshur, 47-44

WESTON, W.Va. — Lewis County was in front for most of Monday night’s matchup against rival Buckhannon-Upshur.

Yet just before the midway point of the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers got a follow-up basket from Carter Zuliani to start a 7-0 spurt that also featured an Ian Strader three-pointer and two Zuliani free throws, allowing the visitors to lead by six points with 2:04 remaining.

The Minutemen then picked the perfect time to put an end to their second-half struggles.

Guard Manny Robinson answered with a critical three-pointer, and Ben Putnam and Aidan Anderson each went 2 for 2 on free throws, while Lewis County came up with several late stops before Robinson sealed a 47-44 victory with a layup a the buzzer.

“The big thing was whenever there was 1:50 left and we came down and hit a big shot, I looked up and we only had two team fouls, so I knew we could be aggressive,” Minutemen head coach Charles Simms said. “That’s why I called the timeout. We had two guys that could foul if we needed to foul and we wanted to be aggressive. We were aggressive and we got lucky. Going to the line, I always tell the kids in practice how important free throws are at the end of games and tonight proved it.”

B-U had five of its 12 turnovers in the final frame, including several late ones that proved critical in the outcome.

Putnam’s two free throws with 1:24 remaining allowed LCHS (3-2) to trail 44-43, and after a Buccaneers’ turnover, Anderson was fouled and cashed in on both tries from the charity stripe to put the Minutemen on top by one with 1:18 left.

B-U had the ball down one late with a chance to lead, but Strader missed a triple out of a timeout. The Minutemen then hung on despite nearly turning the ball over on an inbound pass with 9 seconds remaining, with a scrum on the play leading to Robinson’s uncontested layup as time expired.

“I don’t know if we let it slip away, but we had some chances,” Bucs’ head coach Jason Westfall said. “It’s a game with a lot of emotion and it usually comes down to a handful of plays and they made more plays than us.” 

Lewis limited the Buccaneers(1-2) to 4-for-22 first-half shooting and two field goals over each of the first two quarters to enter halftime with a 22-11 lead. The Minutemen packed in a zone defense in an effort to make the Bucs beat them from the outside, and the plan worked wonders with B-U failing to make a shot outside of the paint in the opening half.

“We knew if we would pack it in and challenge them to shoot outside shots that we could take away a lot of things,” Simms said. 

But the Bucs picked up their offensive production in a big way in the second half, starting with a sequence when they scored five points in a span of 5 seconds. That came on one free throw from Strader, with Zuliani rebounding and putting back the other one that he missed. Zuliani had a chance at a conventional three-point play, but missed his foul shot, only to have teammate Jaden Westfall rebound the miss and convert a layup that trimmed B-U’s deficit to 26-20.

“It was our first road test and we had to find out who we are. I didn’t like who we were in the first half, but in the second half, we found some things that worked,” coach Westfall said.

The Bucs were behind 33-25 after Lewis County’s hit his fourth and final three of the game, but the visitors got a Jerin Westfall three-pointer and four free throws from Zuliani to pull to within a point ahead of the fourth quarter.

Robinson started the fourth quarter scoring with a trey, before B-U scored 12 of the next 14 points to gain its six-point advantage.

However, it proved not to be enough for B-U, which made half of its 16 field goals in the third quarter and shot 8-for-32 outside of that 8-minute stretch.

Zuliani led all players with 18 points and 14 rebounds in defeat. Strader added 11 points.

Robinson scored a team-high 14 points in the win, while Putnam and Griffith contributed 13 apiece. Griffith also had a team-best eight boards.

Outside of that trio, which combined for 11 field goals, Anderson was the only other Lewis player to make a basket.

B-U had a 34-28 rebounding advantage but was outscored by nine points from behind the arc and three points on free throws.

“We had to play through the whistle, and in the first half, we didn’t do that well,” coach Westfall said. “We kept looking for someone else to pick up the slack or for refs to make a call and that’s not who we are. We’re a gritty, blue-collar team, so we need to do better with that.”