MANCHESTER — In a game that featured five lead changes and three ties in the fourth quarter alone, the turning point in Thursday night’s boys basketball contest between Burr and Burton and visiting Brattleboro wasn’t a made basket or a timely defensive stop – it was a play that didn’t show up on the box score.
Trailing 50-48 with less than 20 seconds remaining, Burr and Burton went for the lead – attempting an open 3-pointer from the top of the key. The jumper was off the mark, hitting the left side of the rim and looked destined to go out of bounds and give Brattleboro possession. The Colonels appeared to be in a great position to secure the victory, up two points and about to get the ball back with 16.7 seconds remaining.
A hustle play from Will Ameden changed all of that.
The BBA forward tracked the ball as it bounced toward the sideline off the missed 3-pointer, gained possession while in the air and threw it off a Brattleboro player, stealing an extra possession for his Bulldogs in a last-ditch effort to extend the game.
Needing to score, it was once again Ameden coming up clutch for BBA. Zak Chani found Ameden on a backdoor cut and Ameden finished at the rim through contact, scoring a layup while being fouled to knot the game at 50-all with 11.8 seconds remaining. The game-tying score sent the BBA faithful inside E.H. Henry Gym into a frenzy.
The forward wasn’t able to connect at the charity stripe, but his individual effort shifted the momentum and forced the game into overtime, where BBA ultimately prevailed 61-57.
“If he doesn’t make that play, now, we’re trying to climb the mountain,” BBA coach Dylan Baker said. “But Will made a heads-up play. It was a great pass from Zak. Without those plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet, we don’t even have a chance for overtime.”
Brattleboro guard Cam Frost had a decent look to win the game in regulation on the ensuing possession. He blew by his initial defender with a hesitation dribble on the perimeter before being met by three more Bulldog defenders near the free throw line. The senior point guard threw up a floater off the glass – the same look in traffic he buried a minute prior to extend Brattleboro’s lead to 49-46 – but it was off the mark.
BBA guard Tucker Haynes connected on a floater himself on the opening possession of overtime, and BBA maintained the lead throughout.
Frost, who scored a game-high 24-points, did his best to keep his Colonels within striking distance during the extra quarter. The senior point guard scored the first 5 points of overtime for Brattleboro, including a floater with 37 seconds remaining that trimmed BBA’s lead to one point, 56-55.
Coach Baker called a timeout after the make – knowing BBA was about to face full court pressure – and decided to get a little creative.
“I turned to the guys and I go, ‘let’s have some fun,’” Baker said. “This is what you want, you want a tight game down the stretch against a league opponent.”
BBA drew up a bit of trickery, a double-pass from the baseline. Chani took the ball from the official and fired a bounce pass, still on the baseline, to a teammate who streaked from the court to the baseline. The play caused some confusion, as a Brattleboro defender chased his man to the baseline and accidentally contacted the basketball after breaking the plane, resulting, by rule, in a technical foul.
Chris Carrara calmly stepped to the line and buried both attempts, extending BBA’s lead to three while still maintaining possession.
Brattleboro had one more chance as Frost intercepted the following inbounds pass, and had a contested look at a 3-pointer to once again tie things up. The jumper was a little short, though, and BBA controlled the rebound. That forced Brattleboro into fouling; this time it was Chani connecting on the free throws to ice the game away with 11.7 left.
Brattleboro coach Jason Coplan was pleased with the fight he saw out of his team on Thursday night.
“The effort was there to fight back into it,” he said. “I think just keeping positive throughout the adversity is what we need to focus on.”
The game was a tale of two halves, as the opening two quarters saw just one lead change and one tie. Brattleboro scored the game’s first six points before BBA went on an 11-0 run midway through the first quarter, jump started by a Julien Halstead layup on a give-and-go from Carson Brown.
Play evened out from there, as it remained a one possession game for the remainder of the half. By the end of the second quarter, the Bulldogs held a 24-21 lead.
Baker said Thursday was the strongest BBA has looked all year.
“The boys played with poise, and they played as a team and everybody contributed,” Baker said. “And when any team plays like that, it’s hard to play against them.”
The Bulldogs coach knows the trip to Brattleboro Feb. 14 will be a challenge for BBA.
“They caught us playing our best basketball of the year,” Baker said. “I expect them to bounce back, and when we’re going down there, it’s not going to be easy. Those guys are gamers.”
Brattleboro (7-5) hosts Hartford Saturday at 1 p.m. while BBA (5-6) hosts Otter Valley Monday at 7 p.m.