East Marlborough — Last week, Octorara and Coatesville’s boys basketball teams faced off in an electrifying contest that came down to the wire. The Ches-Mont League American Division champions prevailed by four points. Though the stakes were higher Saturday, the margain and result were the same.
Led by Tarojae Brake’s 29 points and 27 from Levi Worthington, the Braves kept the Red Raiders at bay in the first game of the Ches-Mont Final Four at Unionville High School, edging the Red Raiders, 74-70.
With the victory they punched their ticket to the championship game Tuesday against National Division champs Downingtown West at Unionville at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s contest was filled with back-and-forth play. Early on, the Red Raiders (15-8) used their size to grab a 6-2 lead. After sending more help down in the paint, Octorara (22-1) responded, closing the first quarter on a 6-0 run, which gave them a 17-12 advantage.
“Our adjustment was pretty much to double their bigs and try and keep them from scoring. They still scored, but they had to work for every point they got,’ Octorara coach Gene Lambert said.
Coatesville countered in the second quarter with its depth. They outscored the Braves, 20-12, as seven different players registered points in the first half. Their defense also held Brake to six points. As in the first meeting, Coatesville led at the half, this time by a score of 32-29.
In the second half, Brake and Levi Worthington took control of Octorara’s offense. Together they combined for 34 of the team’s 45 points in the final two quarters.
Entering the fourth quarter the Braves were up 54-50. The final eight minutes proved to be thrilling. There were four ties, and nine lead changes.
“Today was fun. It was a great high school basketball game,’ Lambert said. “To see our kids come through, and to see their guys hit some shots too. It was great basketball. In a gym that’s full of people it was great.’
With 4:36 left in the game Coatesville led 61-58. It was at that point Worthington stepped in. The senior drained a 3-pointer right in front of the Octorara student section. After denying Coatesville on the following possession, the Braves transition offense went the other way where Worthington knifed his way through the paint for a left-handed layup, putting them back up, 63-61.
“It was one of those games where you need to come through. Most games I don’t shoot that much but today it was needed. I am just thankful for my team, who helped me and put me in the right spot,’ Worthington said. “It was the whole team today. Everyone did something to help us win.’
The Red Raiders would not go away. On the ensuing possession, Coatesville’s point guard Kennan Coleman connected from behind the arc, putting his team back up by one with under 3:30 remaining. He scored 10 of their 20 fourth-quarter points.
“We played hard today,’ Coleman said. “Going into clutch games you need to stay relaxed and go out there and play like it is your last.’
With 90 seconds left, Coatesville had a great opportunity to put Octorara on the ropes. With a 66-65 lead, Red Raiders’ forward Rome Boyer went to the free-throw line, looking to extend the lead. Instead he missed the front end of the one-and-one situation, opening the door for the opposition.
The missed free throw provided Brake an opportunity to show the capacity crowd at Unionville High School why he is one of the top players in the area.
With 44 ticks on the clock left, and the Ches-Mont American champions down by one, Brake swished a fadeaway 3-pointer that generated cheers that rattled the roof of the gymnasium.
“It’s confidence,’ Brake said. “Stuff like that are things you dream of. I have made those shots before so I was ready.’
The trifecta put his team up for good. With a 70-68 edge and 22 seconds left in the game, Brake showcased his dependability. He denied the Red Raiders any type of comeback sinking four of four free throws in back-to-back trips to the charity stripe. It would solidify the score at 74-70. Brake finished with 29 points.
It was a deflating loss for the Red Raiders but coach Chuck Moore felt that there were some positives from the emotional contest.
“We played hard. It starts there,’ Moore said. “I thought we competed today. But we need to work on the little things. We have it, don’t get me wrong this team played as hard as they possibly could today. But if you expect to be the victors, and a successful team you need to take care of the little things. We need to take care of the basketball, we need to make three throws and hopefully that carries over for the rest of the season.’