Defense leads Braxton past Devils, 54-41

RAVENSWOOD-Veteran Ravenswood head boys basketball coach Mick Price will be the first to tell any one who will listen that the beauty that surrounds the game of basketball is that every team, regardless of regular season record, advances to tournament play.

Monday night at The Pit, two teams that struggled during the regular season-Braxton County and the Red Devils-met in the opening round of the Class AA, Region I, Section 2 tournament.

Ravenswood opened the game with a bang, but it was the Eagles of first-year head coach Josh Lunceford who finished strong as Braxton County (6-17) came away with a 54-41 victory and eliminated Ravenswood (5-16) from postseason play.

The Red Devils’ Heath Burgess got the hosts off to a fast start, taking a John Crow pass and hitting the first bucket of the game with just 25 seconds off of the clock. Braxton answered with a triple from McKinley Moore with 7:15 showing on the clock.

A Jake Martin bucket, however, ignited a 9-2 run by the hosts over the next three minutes that propelled the Red Devils to a six-point, 11-5, lead. Braxton would answer with a surge of its own as a rebound bucket by Danny Westfall sent the visitors on a 4-0 spurt to pull them within two points, 11-9, with 3:27 left in the opening frame.

The margin would remain at a single basket after a Martin deuce for the Red Devils and another rebound bucket by the Eagles’ Westfall. But, Ravenswood would score the next seven points-five by Martin, who finished with a game-high 22 points-to take a 20-11 advantage with 33 ticks left on the clock.

Reserve Cody Hilton would slice that deficit to six with his first triple of the game with five seconds left to send the two teams to the benches with Ravenswood leading by 20-14.

Braxton, who will play at No. 1 seed Webster County at 7 p.m. today, continued to chip away at the margin and pulled to within one, 28-27, on a layin by Austin Rhodes with 50 seconds remaining until the intermission.

Ravenswood, which connected on 13 of 24 shots from the field in the first 16 minutes, answered with a Martin jumper with three ticks left to take a 30-27 halftime lead.

An advantage that would expand to five, 32-27, following a Martin layin off of a Crow steal to open the third quarter. However, a rebound bucket by Rhodes and Hilton’s second triple of the game knotted the score at 32 with 5:15 left in the third quarter.

Another Martin deuce, his final points of the quarter, returned the lead to the Red Devils 20 seconds later. But, Moore’s second triple of the game ignited a 9-1 run by the Eagles over the final five minutes to give Braxton County the lead heading into the final eight minutes of play, 41-35.

The margin expanded to eight, 43-35, on a Rhodes bucket to open the final quarter of play. But, two free throws by Martin kept the Red Devils within striking distance at 43-37 with 6:ll left in the contest.

That would be as close as the Red Devils would get as Braxton County went to the charity stripe 11 times down the stretch, hitting nine of them while Ravenswood went completely cold from the field-misfiring on all 14 shots.