Riverdale Sectional championship: Bureau Valley 56, Newman 49
PORT BYRON — The third time was the charm for the Bureau Valley Storm on Friday night, paying back two earlier season losses to the Newman Central Catholic Comets with a 56-49 win over their conference rival to capture the Riverdale 2A Sectional championship.
It was the Storm's first sectional title since 2002, fourth in school history, and like their other postseason wins, it didn't come easy.
Behind the majority of the game, but keeping it close, it took a Kale Barnett-led 18-8 fourth period to pull ahead late in the game and stay there for the win.
"I wanted this one bad," said Barnett, who led the Storm (20-10) with 24 points.
"It feels amazing. We got what we wanted," said BV senior forward Nate Paup, who scored nine points. "We worked hard for this, and we're gonna enjoy it."
Early on, neither team had a clear advantage on the scoreboard, but turnovers (13 in the first half of the Storm's game total of 20) were costing BV precious scoring and possession opportunities.
Nevertheless, the Storm defense fought to limit the Comets' advantage to 10-8 in the first period and 25-21 at the half.
Some of those turnovers wound up in the hands of Newman's big man Devon House (24 game points) and freshman standout Marcus Williams (17).
"We felt pretty good going into the half, especially with our defense," Williams said. "We had the lead, and were executing well on offense."
Tyler Gustafson helped the Storm get on the board in the early going, scoring 11 of his 14 total game points (including four treys) in the first half alone.
Gustafson was already on a roll, advancing to state earlier in the Three Point Showdown.
"Coming out of the gate, I knew someone had to set the pace, and luckily I was the guy," Gustafson said. "Later on, we were able to wear them down."
The only things as plentiful as turnovers in the first half were fouls, with each team called for 14 each.
Newman jumped out to a 30-21 lead at the start of the second half, but Barnett and Paup helped the Storm gain ground by driving more underneath the goal, narrowing the Comets' lead to 41-38 at the end of the third quarter.
"We made some adjustments, more so a different mentality from our kids," BV coach Jason Marquis said. "We needed to buckle down and get stops, and we did. Got some rebounds, knocked down some free throws."
There was concern in the fourth period when Barnett, Paul, and Noah Johnson all had three fouls, and Ben Shipp (6 points) collected his fourth.
"I've dealt with foul trouble throughout the regular season," Shipp said. "I've tried to not let it get in my head. When I got my third one, Coach sat me down and calmed me down."
Barnett's hard driving to the goal also helped get him to the charity stripe more, where he was 6-7 in free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Storm defense also rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter, quick on the steal and wearing down House and Williams, the only Comets who could score in the whole second half.
"They came out strong in the second half," Williams said. "They played like there was no tomorrow. They put it all on the floor, and you could see that."
BV kept up the attack, getting ahead 50-49 with 3:11 left in the game, with free throws from Barnett and Shipp padding the lead and a final down-the-court layup from Barnett sealing the deal for the Storm.
Newman coach Ray Sharp saw the BV team he didn't see in their two previous matchups.
"I knew in the postseason with all the seniors they have on their team, they were gonna be tough," he said. "The sad part is, we played well for three and a half periods, led almost the whole game, but they turned up their pressure and played really hard that fourth period."
"We made plays down the stretch, and I'm proud of their effort, their resiliency," Marquis said. "It's good to get over this game that we stumbled in last year (against Winnebago).
"It's on to the next step, but we're gonna enjoy this."
The next step for the Storm is the 2A Super-Sectional in DeKalb at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night against Chicago-Corliss, which defeated Fieldcrest 63-55 Friday at the Peotone Sectional.