KEWANEE – With a 2-2 record going into Saturday night’s final game of the Wally Keller Invitational at Wethersfield High School, the Bureau Valley Storm needed a win to finish the week in third place. The Storm, who lost to Elmwood 77-63 on Friday, used a 19-6 third quarter to erase a two-point halftime deficit and take the 62-54 win over the Putnam County Panthers.
“We had an up-beat halftime, I will say that,” BV coach Jason Marquis said. “Our kids persevered. Putnam County is a great basketball team. It’s good to come out of this thing with a win. I’m just proud of our kids and the resiliency that they showed in the second half.
“Coming over here is about being better every night. To be blunt with you, we weren’t good Friday. We were bad. The good thing was that we got up this morning, got in the gym, knocked down some shots and came in tonight and played our hearts out.”
The Storm had a rough first half, turning the ball over nine times in the first quarter, allowing the Panthers to build a four-point lead 12-8.
In the second, the Storm could only manage to cut the Panther lead to two, 25-27 at the end of the first half.
The Storm came out firing on all cylinders after the break, opening the third with a 12-1 run through the first five-plus minutes led by Parker Neuhalfen with nine of his game-high 20 points. Neuhalfen, along with sophomore classmate Tommy Johnston, who had 14 points on the night, was voted to the All-tournament Team.
“The kid’s growing up,” Marquis said about Neuhalfen. “He doesn’t care whether he scores two, or 20, or 40, he just cares about getting the win. Whether he takes the shot, or somebody else does, if the shot goes in, that’s the only thing that he cares about. Our team looks up to him. We respect him. Our seniors look to him for leadership, and he stepped-up when we really needed him.”
The Panthers were not ready to lay down in the fourth, however. They cut the Storm lead to five with 2:58 to play, before Neuhalfen knocked down a three to extend the lead back to three possessions. Brian Lange and Johnston were perfect from the free-throw line in the final minute to seal the win.
The Storm dominated the boards on the night, out-rebounding the Panthers 36-21, led by Brian Lange, who had a double-double with 11 rebounds and 11 points. Bryce Hansen also hit double digits for the Storm with 11 points.
Cody Veranda led the Panthers’ scoring, matching Neuhalfen with 20 points. Putnam County’s Harold Fay, who scored 18 in Saturday’s game, was also elected to the All-Tournament Team.
• Notes: Elmwood outscored the Storm 41-24 over the second half to post the 77-63 win Friday. Neuhalfen paced the Storm with 22 points and Johnston had 11. ... Fay had 28 points for PC in a 62-57 loss to Wethersfield on Friday.