ALLPORT — To say the West Branch boys basketball team has had a stressful week or so would be an understatement.
But the Warriors seem to thrive under pressure, and did so once again Monday night, taking down Williamsburg 61-47 to give the Pirates their first loss in the Inter-County Conference.
The team came into Monday night’s game without assistant Erik McCracken, who was in the hospital, and volunteer assistant Bill Etchison, who’s mother passed away.
Add to that head coach Danny Clark having to leave last Wednesday’s game against Juniata Valley to be at the birth of his second daughter, Brinley Rose, and it’s been a full week.
“It’s a big win for us,” said Clark. “We really needed that. That was a tough game. We knew coming in it was a fifty-fifty game. But those kids played their butts off tonight. Every single one of them. I’m so proud of them.
“It’s been tough with Erik being out. Our guys have held it together and it’s tough not having him here. Bill wanted to come tonight, but he couldn’t because his mom passed.
“And then I just had a baby girl, so it’s been a full week.”
The Warriors opened up the game on a 6-0 run, as Dalton Kristofits, Trenton Bellomy and Ayden Gutierrez all dumped in baskets.
Williamsburg came back to cut it to 6-5 and the teams played a back-and-forth game the rest of the way.
The Warriors led just 11-9 heading into the second quarter.
With Kristofits out for some of the second quarter after he picked up his second foul late in the first, West Branch struggled to contain Williamsburg.
The Pirates led 28-26 at the half. Shane Brantner had eight of those points for Williamsburg, while Drew Hileman had seven.
“When Dalton got his second foul, that kind of turned things a little bit,” Clark said. “It was a silly one. He is our big guy inside and he changed the whole complexion of the game in the second half.
“Him being out in the second quarter, that let them grab the lead. But when he came back in, he totally dominated that game on both ends of the court.”
West Branch came out of the locker room fired up, tying the game at 28-28 on its first possession of the half.
The Warriors went up 35-32 on a trey by Chance Eboch with 2:38 left in the third and never looked back.
Eboch’s three gave the Warriors a spark, as did the play of Kristofits, who forced several turnovers by the Pirates at the hoop.
The Warriors used those turnovers to take a 40-36 lead at the end of three.
“Trenton filled up the stat line,” Clark said. “Ayden, Chance, everyone really played their tails off for us tonight. I am so happy we won.
“I would have been okay if we lost that because we played so well. But we wanted it more and the guys played so well down the stretch.”
The fourth quarter was all Warriors, as they outscored the Pirates 20-11 in the final frame. Six of those points for Williamsburg came on two three-pointers with less than two minutes to play in the game.
Bellomy scored 16 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, including two treys and 6-of-8 from the free throw line.
Gutierrez and Jackson Croyle each went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe and Kristofits was 1-of-2 down the stretch.
Gutierrez finished the game with eight points. Eboch ended the night with 12 points and seven rebounds, while Doug Kolesar also had seven boards.
West Branch improved to 8-2 overall and 7-1 in the ICC. The Warriors host Harmony on Wednesday.
With the victory, Clark passes former head coach Etchison in all-time school wins with 117.
“Bill had 116 wins and he called me before the game and said, ‘you are going to get it tonight,’” Clark said. “Coaches don’t usually talk about those kinds of things, but we are a family here and it’s all about the kids.”
In junior varsity action, the Warriors won 74-53. Travis Rothrock led WB with 23 points. Cam Kopchik had 18, while Croyle added 10.
Dowey 3 0-0 6, Wansley 2 0-0 4, Palmer 2 4-8 8, Hileman 3 0-0 7, J. McCall 0 2-2 2, Uplinger 2 0-0 6, W. McCall 1 2-2 4, D. James 1 0-0 2, S. Brantner 3 2-3 8. Totals: 17 10-15 47.
Gutierrez 3 2-2 8, Bellomy 9 6-8 28, Eboch 4 1-2 12, Kristofits 3 3-6 9, Rothrock 1 0-0 2, Dale 0 0-1 0, Croyle 0 2-2 2, Tiracorda 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 14-21 61.
Three-pointers: Uplinger 2, Hileman. Bellomy 4, Eboch 3.
Score by Quarters
Williamsburg 9 19 8 11—47
West Branch 11 15 14 20—61