Threes and free-throws push Spartans past Tigers

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

It can really be a thing of beauty when everything goes according to plan.

In getting a much-needed 68-65 win over Tri-Valley Conference rival Erie last Friday night to keep their postseason hopes alive, the Berthoud High School (BHS) boys basketball team’s game plan went exactly as Head Coach Mike Burkett wanted.

Berthoud’s plan, not just against Erie, but against whoever their opponent may be, is to attack. Not blessed with the same size as most of the teams they face, the Spartans want to use their athleticism to attack the basket and get either lay-ups or draw fouls. That is precisely what Berthoud was able to do on their home floor against the Tigers. The Spartans drew 32 fouls on the night, the majority coming in the second half, where Erie found itself on the wrong end of the double-bonus with 1:27 remaining in the third period.

“That’s our game plan; our game plan is to attack on the drive. There is a reason why Wyatt Stratmeyer is second in the state in made free-throws, it’s no accident,” Burkett said after the win. “It’s part of our plan to attack and put you on your heels, because our guys are hard to guard. We’re going to put pressure on you, and you’re either going to let us get to the rim or you’re going to foul us.”

Berthoud made good on 24 shots from the charity stripe, half of which came from the aforementioned Stratmeyer. As the senior and team captain explained, “We just have to take it to them, drive at them and take your time when you get to the line, focus and knock it down.”

The strong effort the Spartans turned in from the line was coupled by opportunist shooting outside. Five different Berthoud players combined to make eight shots from beyond the arc, with almost all of them coming at critical junctures in the game.

Erie quickly jumped out to a 9-0 lead before even two minutes had ticked off the clock, but Jake Lozinski made one from downtown to put Berthoud on the board at the 5:30 mark in the first quarter. Trinity Buckley made another trey to knot the score at nine-all just over two minutes later.

“We knew Erie was going to come out hard, so it was no surprise that they came out and punched us in the gut, and I’m really proud of how our guys responded,” Burkett said.

Erie did not let up after relinquishing the lead, but Berthoud kept attacking. Ben Burkett made a short-range jumper that was followed by a three-pointer from Curtis Peacock. Burkett added another two on a rebound and put-back to give the Spartans a 20-14 lead. Burkett made another one from downtown with 3:40 left that kept Berthoud’s lead to two possessions and prevented the Tigers from building any momentum.

Threes from Burkett and Cameron Poll helped the Spartans keep Erie at bay in the third quarter as their defense forced Erie to miss their first seven field-goal attempts. Stratmeyer made good on a pair of free-throws at 1:48 mark and, on the next possession, Buckley drew what was Erie’s 10th foul of the half, giving Berthoud the double-bonus. From there the plan was all about making good on free-throws and keeping Erie from assembling any long-scoring runs. Shane Grimes drew a charge in the fourth quarter that proved bigger than most, with Coach Burkett calling it “one of the biggest plays or our season,” and shifted what small amount of momentum Erie had built over the last few minutes right back to Berthoud.

Three jump shots late in the fourth quarter from Erie’s Jeffrey Farineau and a four-for-four effort from the line, thanks to a foul and a subsequent technical from Jadon Lucero, was not enough, as Berthoud held on for the critical three-point win. Said Stratmeyer, “This was a huge win; it’s definitely a momentum builder to help get us into the playoffs hopefully.”

Berthoud (6-12, 4-5, TVC) will welcome Holy Family (11-7, 7-2 TVC) to the BHS gym for their next game on Friday night. Holy Family got the best of Berthoud, 78-55, in their first meeting back on Jan. 9.

 

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