Fort Frye outlasts Sandy Valley for sectional gold
BEVERLY — For the second straight game top-seeded Fort Frye was put to the test and for the second straight game the Cadets withstood the challenge and survived to fight another day.
Friday night at Fort Frye High School the Cadets claimed their third sectional title in the past four years, but it was anything but easy as they trailed in the second half before rallying to down the No. 10-seeded Sandy Valley Cardinals 53-45.
The Cadets found themselves trailing by three with five minutes to play in the third quarter before righting the ship to claim their 18th victory of the season against just two losses.
“At this point in the year everybody is fighting for their lives and we are going to get the best game from everybody,” said Fort Frye head coach Eric Henniger. “We count on our seniors to step up in games like this and they did so again tonight.”
The usually fundamentally sound Cadets struggles were similar to the ones they faced Tuesday night in their win over Barnesville as they seemed unable to get into a rhythm offensively.
Despite their offensive struggles, the Cadets continued to play outstanding defense as they limited the Cardinals to just six first-quarter points and forced five turnovers as they jumped out to a 10-6 lead.
Senior Kelton Fogle came up with a huge play to end the first quarter as he spoiled a Sandy Valley attempt at going for the final shot by coming up with a steal and a basket in transition to give his team the four-point lead.
The Cadets looked like they might carry that momentum into the second quarter as after a Kaiden Mastri bucket for Sandy Valley trimmed the lead to two, back-to-back field goals by Fogle and Dylan Hart and a 3-pointer from sophomore Owen Brown pushed the Cadet lead to nine at the midway point of the quarter.
Fogle’s old-fashioned three-point play later in the quarter kept the lead at nine before the Cards finished out the half with back-to-back two-pointers by Mastri and Demetrius Evans to close the lead to 25-20 at the break.
Sandy Valley continued to put pressure on the Cadets in the third period as Evans opened the second half with a bucket before junior Brandon Wigfield knocked down back-to-back triples and just like that the Cardinals had a 28-25 lead.
“We knew full well that 33 (Wigfield) was a good shooter and we were trying to get to him,” said Henniger. “They were running good sets for him to get him open and he took advantage of it.”
Fogle answered in a big way for the home team with a triple to tie the game and fellow senior Luke Huffman followed with a long 3-pointer to put the Cadets back in front by three.
Freshman Nick Petro knotted the game with the third triple of the third period for the visitors but Huffman connected again from behind the arc to keep the Cadets in front by three heading to the final quarter.
The Cadets began to put a bit of distance between themselves and the Cardinals on a bucket from junior Garrett Lipot and a floater by Fogle before Wigfield drilled yet another 3-ball to trim the lead to four.
A field goal followed by a pair of freebies by Cadet senior Nic Hart increased the lead back to eight, but once again the pesky Cardinals came back on buckets by Petro and Mastri to cut the lead back to four with 4:20 to play.
That would be as close as Sandy Valley would come to pulling off the upset as Hart made seven free throws down the stretch and the Cadets pulled away to the win.
Hart scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the closing quarter while also leading his team in rebounds with nine and steals with five.
Fogle added 14 points and six rebounds for the winners, who claimed the sectional title for the second time in a row.
“Any time you can win a championship whether its the league or a sectional it’s important to the team,” said Henniger. “These guys work very hard for this and to get a sectional championship we are pretty happy about it.”
Sandy Valley was led by Wigfield’s 20 points, which included six 3-pointers while Mastri and Evans chipped in with 12 and eight points respectively.
While Sandy Valley finishes their season with a 7-10 record, the Cadets move on to open district play on Tuesday night when they play host to third-seeded Ridgewood.
“We’ve got to come out ready to play because from here on out every team is even,” said Henniger. “You are going to play a great team in the districts every night so we are going to have to play a lot better than we did tonight.”