The Pryor Times


January 31, 2011

Pirates can’t get overtime benefit

LOCUST GROVE — LOCUST GROVE — The Locust Grove Pirates had a chance to win the basketball game.

What they didn’t have was Jake Bullard.

The Pirates positioned themselves for just the right shot Friday night, but the dagger that would have pierced the heart of the undefeated Vinita Hornets in regulation caromed off into the hands of the athletically gifted Bullard and extended a well-contested game for another four minutes.

Bullard looked at the overtime as his personal showcase, as if he really needed one after the way he had played for 32 minutes.

He scored six points in the extra period, grabbed two rebounds and stole a pass to carry the Hornets past Locust Grove, 55-50, in the unqualified game of the season in Mayes County.

Bullard is a 6-5 junior who can play every position on the basketball court.

He should not be hampered by the restraints of position. He qualifies for — maybe even defines — the label of “athlete.”

He totaled up 26 points and 11 rebounds — both game-highs — and was the only Hornet who scored in all periods.

“I’d rather coach him than coach against him,” Vinita coach Tony Roach said after the game.

Bullard produced a handful of gee-whiz moments throughout the game, but the signature play came late in the overtime period.

With the Hornets holding to a 50-47 lead, Nash Chamberlain rebounded a Pirates miss with 1:09 remaining.

Vinita had to inbound the ball at the Locust Grove end of the floor. Bullard broke away from the pack and dashed toward the mid-court line, extended his long right arm and signaled for the ball.

He caught it in stride, with a Pirate on his hip, and headed for the goal. Even as he was going up for his thundering dunk, the noise level in Pirate Arena reached sonic-boom levels.

Bullard was fouled and converted the free throw for a six-point lead.

The Pirates countered with a Cale Fine 3-pointer, but they ran out of time and possessions.

“This was a great game,” Roach said. “The best game in the state tonight on any level.

“You had two quality teams, with high-profile players.”

Vinita came in with the No. 2 ranking in Class 4A, undefeated and, for the most part, untested. They had won tournament championships at home and at Pryor and recently accepted an invitation to participate in the Tournament of Champions in December in Tulsa.

Locust Grove is three spots behind in the rankings and had just wrapped up its first tournament championship 24 hours earlier at Fort Gibson.

Still riding the high of the Thursday night win over eighth-ranked Stilwell, the Pirates punched the Hornets in the nose in the first quarter and pulled away to a 16-9 lead.

For the Hornets, that was unfamiliar territory. In their 16 previous victories, the Hornets have trailed on a couple of occasions in the first quarter, but as Roach said, “not by that big of a deficit.”

The Pirates were maintaining that advantage late in the second quarter before disaster struck.

They saw their 26-25 lead disappear in a seven-second flash just ahead of halftime.

Chamberlain scored on a rebound shot for the Hornets and on the inbounds pass, reserve Garret Maxey made the interception and scored at the buzzer for a 29-26 advantage.

The disappointment for the Pirates lingered into the third quarter. They managed just two field goals, and six points, and fell behind by 38-32 going into the final quarter.

Locust Grove’s lack of production can be traced to a halftime talk by Roach.

He had not been satisfied with the Hornets’ effort to that point.

“I went in there and said I’ve got to find my players. Those weren’t my guys out there. I’ve got to get my guys.”

He found them all right. They were the ones riding on the shoulders of Jake Bullard.

Still, the game was a tossup midway through the fourth quarter.

“We knew it was going to be a war. A dogfight,” Roach said.

And the underdog took the fight to the favorite down the stretch of the fourth quarter.

Pud Ross finally pulled Locust Grove into a deadlock, at 40, on a layup with 4:07 remaining. Two more ties followed before Locust Grove went in front, 46-44, on two Ross free throws with 41 seconds remaining.

Bullard knew how to answer that. He found his spot along the baseline, took a pass and with one step hit the tying basket with 26 seconds left.

The Pirates had the clock on their side. Following a timeout, they took the ball at midcourt and worked it into the hands of Trey Conner, selected the Most Valuable Player Thursday night for the Old Fort Classic tournament in Fort Gibson.

He moved into the lane, lofted a soft floater, but it missed its mark and Bullard was there to rebound as the buzzer sounded, signalling the end of regulation and the beginning of Bullard Time.

Conner emerged as the highest-scoring Pirate against Vinita, posting 14 points and scoring in every period. He also had seven rebounds while teammate Adrian Houser added up 12.

In the overtime, Vinita outrebounded the Pirates, 9 to 4.

Locust Grove coach Ronnie Maple reiterated the thoughts of Roach when he said, “Tonight, there were two good, quality basketball teams playing.”

“And when two good basketball teams get together,” he said, “the fans got their money’s worth.

“Our kids can’t hang their heads. They had their chance to win. That shot at the end just rattled in and out.

“This was a tough one to lose. But the kids did a really good job in the fourth quarter (coming back from a six-point deficit to tie and even take the lead).”

Ross was the engineer of the Pirates’ comeback, scoring eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.

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