Octorara nips Coatesville

ATGLEN — Chalk one up for the little guys.

Saturday night at a packed Octorara High School gym, the smallest school in the Ches-Mont League, came back from a third-period deficit to take down the big, bad Red Raiders of Coatesville, 57-53, in a thrilling 32 minutes of frenetic basketball that had the crowd on its feet the entire game.

The two teams dove for every loose ball and hit the glass like a pack of rabid dogs going after fresh meat for the entire evening. Octorara (19-1) dug down deep and despite shooting 6-for-15 from the free-throw line in the fourth period, managed to hang with the taller Red Raiders (14-6) in the final period, to thrill the home crowd and send fans streaming onto the court after the final buzzer.

“At halftime, (assistant) coach (Jason) Ralston wrote ‘ Are we tough enough’ on the blackboard and the kids believed they were and went out and fought and got the win,’ Octorara coach Gene Lambert said. “We missed all those foul shots and we practice them every day. But, sometimes all things are not going to go your way. The kids found a way to get it done tonight. We knew they would make their run, but we did not quit.’

Coatesville held a slim 26-25 advantage at halftime, and looked to pull away midway in the third. With inside scoring from Justus Martinez, who led with 14 points, and Amir Ealey, the Red Raiders were killing the smaller Braves on the boards.

After a Dondre Pitman follow made the lead 42-35, the deeper Red Raiders seem to have worn the Braves out,. But, Tarajoe Brake, who led all scorers with 25 points, 13 of 14 from the free-throw line, had other ideas. Along with Jackson Ray, Levi Worthington and Andrew Forman, back came Octorara. At the end of the third period Coatesville had just a 43-42 lead and the overflow crowd was on its feet and roaring with every twist and turn.

“We started to come back and help our big guys on the boards,’ Brake said. “This was a good win for us because I know all the guys on Coatesville’s team and with our guys, it was like playing with family out there tonight. When we missed those foul shots it was frustrating, but we fought our way through it and got the win.’

Coatesville turned the ball over five times in the final period — 13 for the game — helping Octorara stay within reach.

When Forman scored on a run out to give Octorara a 49-45 lead, it seemed like the roof would blow off the tiny gym. But, Coatesville did not go away easily. Martinez scored in tight with 1:53 to play to make it 50-49, Octorara. Coatesville then took the lead, 51-50, after the Braves missed two free throws and Rome Boyer danced down the lane with 1:28 to play.

Coatesville then rebounded a Octorara miss, but turned the balloter at halfcourt. Forman picked up the loose change, glided to the hole and slammed the ball through the net for a 52-51 lead with 53 seconds left.

“They have some good big guys and it was tough, but all season we have been a good second-half team,’ Octorara’s Jackson Ray said. “We got going on the boards and that was the difference in the game.’

Brake hit two free throws with 42 seconds to play. But, Martinez got fouled and hit one of two free throws to make it 54-52 game with 22 seconds left. Ricky Southcott then fouled Brake, who hit both free throws help seal the victory. Seconds later, David had slew Goliath and the fan poured on the court in celebration.

A dejected Coatesville coach Chuck Moore tried to sum up the loss.

“We just turned the ball over too much,’ Moore said. “We did not make shots and the emotion of the game may have gotten to us. We had two technicals in the first half and we seemed to lose control at times.’

NOTES: Coatesville shot 21-for-60 (35 percent) from the field and just 9-for20 (45 percent) from the line.

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