By Mark Robinson
The Greenbrier West boys basketball team travelled to Meadow Bridge Friday night, Jan. 13, for a rematch of a game earlier in the season in which West rattled off 13 unanswered points in overtime to claim the victory.
This time Meadow Bridge came out on top, 55-51, the clock buzzing as West’s final three point attempt missed by inches.
Earlier in the contest it looked like it would be a blowout, with Meadow Bridge taking a 15 point lead in the third quarter. At halftime that lead had been eight points, at 27-19, but Meadow Bridge quickly expanded it in the third quarter, first to a
37-22 spread, then 41-26, with two minutes left in the quarter. It looked like lights out. But West used their twin towers inside, 6-foot 8-inch brothers Riley and Collin O’Dell, to work their way back into the game, repeatedly finding the pair with lob passes inside to set up layups. Adam Johnson worked the baselines for more inside scoring. The count was 41-31 at the end of the quarter, and with seven minutes remaining the lead was whittled down to six, at 41-35. West had gone on a 9-0 run over a seven minute span.
At this point the intensity level rose to fever pitch. Meadow Bridge’s gym is small, and the bleachers sit right down next to the court. The place was packed, with bleachers filled shoulder to shoulder, and other fans standing in the corners. It was loud. The teams battled. 42-39 with six minutes left. 44-43 with four minutes left. With two and a half minutes remaining, West finally climbed into the lead, 47-46. Meadow Bridge took it right back, going up 51-47 on a Will Woods jumper from the top of the lane. With the score at 51-49 with 28 seconds remaining, Meadow Bridge’s Zack Yates hit two free throws to extend the lead to four. There wasn’t time for West to create two baskets. They got one, Meadow Bridge added a couple of free throws, and it ended 55-51.
Jared Gladwell led Meadow Bridge with 19 points. Riley O’Dell led West with 14 points on seven baskets. His brother Collin had 13 points, hitting five of six free throws.
West played without their forward Hunter Bevins, a key part of their team. Bevins had emergency appendectomy surgery the previous Saturday. West coach Joey Fitzwater said before the game, “With Hunter not playing, we have to make up his 11-12 points.”
After the game, Fitzwater commented, “We know it’s a tough environment every time we come over here and play. We got down early, and battled back. We threw the ball away down the stretch, gave them two opportunities to go down and score. They went down and scored. If we shoot 50 percent at the free throw line we might have won anyway. It’s just little things and that’s what we told the kids after the game. It’s just little things we have to keep working on and improving.”
Mark Gladwell, coach for Meadow Bridge, said after the game, “We shot well at the foul line, and we did a good job standing in there, and picked up a few charge calls on their big guys. We were definitely undersized in there. Getting them in foul trouble helped us a little bit. We made some boneheaded decisions to make the game close. Probably a four-minute span I’d like to have back. I’m proud of my guys for not folding, because we gave up a 15-point lead and we’re down by two, and they kept playing hard. It was a great game. Good atmosphere.”
One of the referees commented on that atmosphere at halftime, “You know, there aren’t many places like this. It’s special.” When asked what he meant, he continued, “There aren’t many of these little schools out in the country anymore. Most schools are bigger, and there’s a different feel to them. Places like this are a wonderful way to watch a ball game.”