SPRING MILLS — Heading into the fourth quarter, it looked like the second matchup between Bald Eagle Area and Penns Valley this season would end in a blowout — a far cry from their triple overtime thriller in January.
The Eagles rode their pressure defense to a 20-point lead after holding the Rams to eight points combined in the second and third quarters. But the Rams didn’t go quietly, using a press of their own to stun BEA, inject life into the crowd and spark a wild fourth-quarter comeback on Tuesday night.
Penns Valley closed the gap to three points with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but Bald Eagle Area retook control and finished off its 55-48 victory in a Mountain League showdown at Penns Valley High School.
“Happy now,” BEA coach Bill Butterworth said after the frantic finish. “Nice win for us. Give it to them, we had ‘em down 20 and they started doing that scramble defense there at the end, and we got a little reckless there and took some bad shots.
“I called timeout there a couple times and tried to settle them down, but with the noise in here, you can’t hardly hear what I was saying.”
Bryan Greene led BEA (15-4) with 14 points, and teammate Brandon Gettig added 11.
For the Rams, center Zach Engle scored all of his team-high 11 points in the first half.
The Eagles’ win came 15 days after they lost 53-47 in triple overtime to Penns Valley (15-3).
“I guess it’s only fitting that we split these games,” Rams coach Terry Glunt said. “But obviously we would have liked to taken two.”
The Rams started strong by feeding Engle down low. He scored nine points in the first quarter to help the Rams finished the first quarter tied at 14.
His jumper from the left elbow opened the second quarter and pushed his team ahead by two. But Engle would never score again.
BEA, which came out in a 2-3 zone to try to contain the big man, switched back to its man-to-man and pressure defense.
“They took it out of a half-court game and got it into a full-court game,” Glunt said.
Glunt said his team wasn’t suited to keep up with the Eagles’ hectic pace. And the Rams quickly fell apart.
An errant pass by Ram Cameron Tobias led to an easy layup for BEA’s Trey Butterworth to bring the Eagles within 18-16. Another Rams’ turnover on the ensuing possession ended with another Butterworth layup.
Butterworth was fouled on the play and made the free throw to give Bald Eagle a 19-18 lead with less than four minutes to play in the half. By halftime, the Eagles expanded the lead to 26-19 as turnover troubles continued to plague Penns Valley.
“We got the tempo up there in the second, beginning of third quarter,” Bill Butterworth said. “Luckily that was the difference in the game.”
Bald Eagle came out on a 9-0 run to start the second half and open up a 35-19 lead. The Eagles then started melting the clock and took a 42-22 lead into the fourth quarter.
The game appeared to be over.
With no other choice, Glunt called for a full-court press in the fourth quarter. Penns Valley was forcing the tempo now, and Bald Eagle was struggling to handle it.
“Being down 20, we just threw all our eggs into one basket, went after them and the guys got it back to three,” Glunt said. “I thought that was pretty special.”
The 20-point lead was cut to 15 when PV’s Logan Johnson knocked down a 3-pointer.
Johnson finished with nine points, scoring all nine in the fourth. Four possessions later, BEA turned it over on a 10-second violation.
The Rams cut the deficit to 46-36. And after a charge call on Greene, the Ram crowd jumped to its feet in support of its team’s effort during a timeout with 4:25 to play.
“At one point, I couldn’t really hear anything,” Greene said. “It just turned all blurry.”
The dramatic comeback continued out of the timeout.
PV cut the deficit to eight points, then seven, then six. And the Rams’ Ben Alexander made it a one-possession game with his offensive rebound, finish and free throw to bring his team within 48-45 with 1:50 left.
Bald Eagle took another timeout. Greene was called for another charge, but he recovered with a steal and layup to take the momentum back. After another BEA layup, Gettig put the finishing touches on the win with two free throws.
“That was basically what we told them when we called the timeouts,” Butterworth said. “You’re going to have to make your foul shots now, it’s a three-point game.
“If we make our foul shots, game over.”