Yesterday evening, in a key PSAA match-up against Long Island Lutheran, the Bears emerged victorious in a 68-64 overtime win in Brookville. The game had playoff seeding implications for the Bears who knew that a loss would give them the #4 seed in the PSAA tournament, and a date with top-seeded Portledge, while a win would give them the #3 seed. Their play reflected an urgency to secure the higher seed.
Both squads traded buckets in the early moments of the opening quarter, but after a CJ Edwards layup, LuHi bookended a 3-pointer with a pair of layups to take a 12-4 lead. With the Bears in need of a spark, Osazee Alapa took over. He followed a block with a layup, a pump fake, drive, and score, and a jumper to pull the Brook within 10-12. Following a LuHi 3-pointer, Alapa drove and finished a layup, plus the foul, but a lane violation negated his free throw. Still, Alapa’s eight-point spurt pulled the Bears within 12-15 after one.
Gustav Skogsjo hit his first of five 3-pointers to open the second, but two straight scores from LuHi pushed their lead back to four. That margin held until consecutive 3-pointers from Oskar Humpert and Gustav Skogsjo gave the Brook a 25-23 advantage. A jumper and layup from LuHi gave them the lead back with 50 seconds left in the half, but a hanging layup from Skogsjo with 17 ticks remaining knotted the teams at 27-27 at the half, a nearly identical result to the 26-26 halftime score in their match-up on January 28.
The Bears opened the second half with a 9-2 spurt that started with a Skogsjo 3-pointer and ended with a fastbreak layup from Humpert. The surge gave the Bears their largest lead at 36-29 and prompted a LuHi timeout. After the stoppage, LuHi engineered a 12-2 run to retake a 41-38 lead. A pair of Skogsjo free throws with 9.9 seconds left pulled the Brook within 40-41 as the game moved to the fourth.
In their previous match-up with LuHi, the Bears trailed by just three entering the fourth quarter before wilting down the stretch in a 56-61 loss. Yesterday, the Bears showed remarkable toughness to ensure a different result. LuHi opened the fourth with a 3-point play to extend their margin to four. Four times the Bears scored to move back within two points, but each time LuHi answered to maintain their lead. With Lutheran still hanging on to a 54-50 edge, Edwards hit a 3-pointer with 2:15 left that kicked high off the back iron and fell in to bring the Brook within 53-54. Three LuHi free throws pushed their lead back to 57-53 with 1:12 left and an offensive rebound off of a free throw gave them possession of the ball, up four, with under a minute, but a defensive stop preceded a Skogsjo 3-pointer as the Brook edged within 56-57 with 37 seconds left. The Bears fouled to stop the clock with 13 seconds left and LuHi hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to extend their margin to 56-59. In need of a big play in the waning seconds, the Bears turned to Skogsjo who connected on his fifth 3-pointer with three seconds left to send the game to overtime, knotted at 59-59.
In the extra period, the Bears took a slim lead on a pair of Edwards free throws after a scoreless first 1:20. The Bears would not trail again. LuHi missed a pair of free throws at the 2:16 mark and Edwards followed with a double-clutch layup for a 63-59 lead. Lutheran answered with a 3-pointer, but a Skogsjo drive and layup with 1:10 remaining kept the lead at three. After a defensive stop, Skogsjo hit 1-of-2 free throws for a 66-62 edge. A LuHi jumper pulled them back within 64-66 before an Edwards free throw pushed the lead back to three with 23.6 seconds remaining. Humpert secured the rebound after LuHi missed a game-tying 3-point attempt, then hit a clutch free throw with 11 seconds left to quiet the boisterous crowd and make it a two-possession game. A harmless LuHi 3-pointer caromed off the rim as the Bears secured a big victory.
Skogsjo finished with a team-high 26 points while Edwards dropped in 21. Alapa played one of his finest games as a Bear to finish with 13 points while Humpert (6) and Nick Zemitis (2) chipped in as well. Having wrapped up the regular season, the Bears now look ahead to postseason play for the 21st consecutive year (not counting last year’s COVID-19 hiatus). They return to #2-seeded LuHi on Monday evening in the PSAA quarterfinals.