PHILIPSBURG — Dennis Fisher caught the ball on the left wing and heard a few Philipsburg-Osceola fans singing a familiar chorus. He rose up and knocked down the 18-footer anyway and silenced the serenade.
It was that type of mental toughness that helped Bald Eagle Area overcome a slow start to dispatch the Mounties 55-36 in Mountain League boys’ basketball on Friday night in Philipsburg.
A few possessions before Fisher silenced his critics, the senior shot an airball almost from the exact spot. So when he caught the ball in that area again, an “airball” chant greeted him — and he definitely heard it.
“Oh yeah, that’s the only reason I shot it,” Fisher said with a chuckle. “It just makes me want to play harder.”
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Fisher finished with a game-high 17 points to help the Eagles remain unbeaten at 6-0.
Twin brothers Bryce and Bryan Greene scored 11 points apiece. Brandon Gettig scored 11 points and Ryan Dyke had four for the Eagles.
It was a physical contest with the teams combining for 35 fouls in the game, most of which elicited clever quips from Bald Eagle fans who felt their team wasn’t getting its fare share.
“I’ll tell you what, I don’t think I’ve given my team enough credit this season,” said Eagles coach Bill Butterworth. “I kept saying, ‘we haven’t been tested,’ but the more I watch these guys play, they’re so focused and they just don’t get distracted.”
The Mounties stormed out to a 12-2 lead after Eric Nartatez’s gorgeous spin move and floater with 3:02 left in the first quarter. That would be the team’s last points of the frame as the Eagles quickly went on a 10-0 run to close the quarter.
Nartartez finished with seven points. Matt Carpin had a team-high 12, while Andrew Reifer scored eight for P-O (1-5).
“I think we were a little tired to start,” Fisher said. “They came out and played well. I don’t want to take anything away from them, but it was our third game of the week. We were able to recover though.”
The Mounties also bounced back. After a Bryan Greene 3-pointer pushed the Eagles’ lead to 23-18, it appeared the Bald Eagle was in control.
However, the Mounties answered right back with two quick points by Reifer and two more by Golembeski, limping their way into halftime down just 27-24.
“We played well in spurts and right now we just need to get some consistency,” said Mounties’ coach Dave McKnight. “That’s the bottom line. I think we played a super first half, but we let them back in. They’re a good team. They’re 5-0 for a reason.”
The Eagles dominated the second half, allowing just 12 points in the last two quarters after giving up 12 quick ones to begin the game.
The brothers Greene wreaked havoc on Philipsburg ball handlers in the third and fourth quarters. The Mounties had eight turnovers at halftime, but ended the game with 24.
“It’s like having four of them out there,” Butterworth said of the Greene twins. “I think they are the best anticipators of the basketball ... They seem to always get their hands on the ball and they frustrate people.”
If the Greenes patrolled and punished on the perimeter, Fisher took care of the paint.
“Fisher opens everything up for our guards,” Butterworth said. “He loosens up the defense because everybody tries to pack it in on him. Our last three opponents that guy has worked his tail off because he gets double and triple teamed and he’s still getting 20 points a game.”
Overcoming a large deficit early and trying to phase out their fans gripes against the stripes, Fisher said the key to the victory was composure.
“We just had to keep our composure and pick our defense a little bit,” Fisher said. “Coach just kept us all composed, he’s a great coach and it all worked out.”