PVC champs: Fort Frye takes down Caldwell, 58-44, for title
BEVERLY — Fort Frye could not buy a bucket for the first seven minutes and 59 seconds of the first quarter in Wednesday night’s Pioneer Valley Conference showdown against Caldwell.
Fortunately for the defending conference champions, they got untracked in plenty of time and rolled to a 58-44 victory over the Redskins to claim the PVC crown for the second consecutive season and the 14th time in the past 19 seasons.
Fort Frye was nearly blanked in the opening quarter and found itself trailing Caldwell 9-0 before junior Luke Nelson knocked down a triple just before the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter of play.
That one shot seemed to open the lid on the basket for the Cadets as they scored 22 points in each of the second and third quarters.
Fort Frye head coach Eric Henniger was hoping that his team would come out clicking on all cylinders one night after a tough loss to Waterford, but it took his team one full quarter to get going.
“After last night I was really expecting a quick start, but it was the exact opposite,” said Henniger, whose team was limited to single-digits in three of the four quarters against Waterford. “Once we got going the kids kind of came together and started playing for each other and went and got a PVC title.”
The Cadets quickly began to chip away at the Caldwell lead and pulled even at 16-16 on three consecutive free throws by freshman Nic Hart.
Senior Tyler Bradford gave the Cadets their very first lead of the game with two minutes to play in the half when he came up with a steal at midcourt and finished on the other end with a lay-up.
The two traded the lead several times the rest of the half before Caldwell jumped back in front by two on a pair of freebies by Clark Jennings with less than five seconds to go but for the second straight quarter the Cadets connected on a buzzer-beater, this time a long two by Tate Engle as time expired to send the game into intermission tied at 25-25.
As hard as points were to come by for the Fort in the opening period, they seemed to come easy in the third as they scored 10 of the first 11 points of the second half kicked off by an Engle triple.
Jennings connected on a three-pointer for the ‘Skins to cut the lead back to six but Fort Frye went on another 10- run capped by 3’s by Zane Greenleaf and Kelton Fogle to open up a commanding 16-point lead.
“We made a couple of adjustments on both offense and defense and it kind of got our guys running and got us in a good flow,”said Henniger. “Our guys weren’t pushing the ball at all in the first quarter but the second quarter we started doing a much better job of that and that’s what we needed to do.”
Greenleaf accounted for eight of the Cadets 22 third quarter points and Brady Schilling opened the final period with a pair of field goals, both on assists from Engle to give Fort a 20-point lead and they cruised from their to improve their season mark to 12-8 and clinch an out-right PVC title with a 7-1 mark.
The game marked the final regular season game for the four Cadet seniors who were honored prior to the start of the game.
“Tyler Bradford, Grayson Schott, Brayson Schilling and Trae Dalton have been with me all four years,” said Henniger. “They have put in the effort and what is great about them, especially this year, is they have become great leaders.”
Caldwell head coach Clint Crane felt his team gave a valiant effort on a night where they were forced to play without out one of their leading scorers in the injured Christopher Hupp.
“We played really well to start the game but not having any time to kind of adjust to not having Christopher out there offensively kind of hurt,” said Crane. “We had some kids playing that don’t typically play a lot of minutes but I can’t fault their effort.”
Greenleaf was the only Cadet to reach double figures as he finished with 14 points while Engle, Hart and Brady Schilling each tossed in seven.
Jenning and Logan Heller led Caldwell (12-10) in scoring with 17 and 16 points respectively.
Caldwell will open tourney play Tuesday at Rosecrans while the Cadets will travel to Cambridge Friday to wrap up their regular season before opening tourney play at home Tuesday against former conference foe Buckeye Trail.