Entering the fourth quarter down four points, the Bureau Valley boys basketball team extended its pressure and turned up the intensity.
The Storm forced Putnam County into turnovers on its first six possessions of the fourth quarter and converted the miscues into nine points.
Bureau Valley led the rest of the way to win, 49-41, on Saturday to claim the championship at the Wally Keller Invitational with a 5-0 record.
“It means a lot,” BV senior Carter Salisbury said. “We’ve been practicing hard. We went game by game. We got to this last game and to pull through being down going into the fourth, it means a lot.”
The Panthers scored the last two baskets of the third quarter to take a 33-29 lead into the final eight minutes.
Putnam County was whistled for a charge on the first possession of then fourth, and Salisbury sank a pair of free throws at the other end.
Then the Storm’s defense kicked in.
A tipped pass led to a bucket by Layton Britt.
Brock Foster tipped another pass and took it in for a fastbreak basket and a 35-33 lead.
The Storm then got steals on Putnam County’s next three possessions, converting the turnovers into 3-of-6 free throws to take a 38-33 lead.
“That was just players making good plays,” BV coach Jason Marquis said. “It was no adjustments from a coaching standpoint. It was just kids starting to realize what’s on the line. The more you put into it, the more you seem to be able to find in your tank when you really need it.”
The Storm extended their lead to 41-33 before Putnam County scored its first points of the fourth quarter with 4:11 left.
“For about three and a half quarters, we competed,” PC coach Harold Fay said. “Then we had a couple bad breaks and we seemed to kind of hang our shoulders and stopped doing what kept us in then game.
“We went back to one-on-one and trying to go by ourselves instead of keeping it a team concept where everybody is moving. That’s what got us in trouble.”
Britt drained a 3-pointer from the corner and Salisbury followed with a pair of free throws to expand the Storm’s lead to 47-35 with 2:10 left.
“That’s a mental toughness quarter,” Marquis said. “Fatigue sets in. I don’t think we had a turnover. I don’t think we gave up an offensive rebound. That’s the epitome of what good teams do: do the simple things with extraordinary consistency. We made sharp passes, met passes, made free throws, rebounded the ball and made sure every shot they took was contested. I thought we played really well in the fourth quarter.”
The Storm led, 10-4, after the first quarter, but the Panthers outscored BV, 17-9, in the second to go into halftime up 21-19.
Putnam County led by as many as six points at 29-23 with 4:14 left in the third, but the Storm rallied to tie it at 29 before the Panthers took their four-point lead into the fourth.
Salisbury scored a game-high 22 points for Bureau Valley, while Foster and Adam Johnson added eight points each.
“We haven’t won this tournament in a while, so to win it is going to provide some momentum going forward for the season,” Salisbury said.
Andrew Pyszka led Putnam County (3-2) with 14 points, while Jackson McDonald added 12 points.