NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- William Peets has been a shot-blocking machine for the BArT basketball team over the years.
But it was a block of a different kind that proved costly for the Wolfpack in Thursday's River Valley Athletic League title game.
Peets left the game less than a minute into the third quarter after hitting the floor attempting to take a charge.
After icing his knee on the bench, returned later in the third quarter, but he wasn't 100 percent, and Eagle Hill was able to pull away in the closing moments for a 51-44 win at the Armory.
Peets finished with five points, six rebounds and seven blocks for BArT, which got a team-high 17 from Isaac Bamba.
Cully Carson scored 27 -- including 18 in the second half -- to lead the Pioneers.
The large crowd that turned out for the league final was on the edge of its seats for most of the afternoon, watching a game where neither team led by more than five points until a pair of Eagle Hill free throws with 13 seconds left to play.
The Wolfpack took their biggest lead, 7-2, when Brandon Bamba (four points, eight rebounds, three assists) set up Owen Brady for a bucket with 5:07 left in the first quarter.
Eagle Hill came back to lead late in the first, but Isaac Bamba converted one of Peets’ three first-half assists to give the Wolfpack a 15-14 edge after one.
Neither side led by more than three points in the second quarter, which ended when Peets fed Sawyer Moser in the post to tie it, 25-25, going to the break.
Just like in its semi-final win on Tuesday, BArT got contributions from throughout the lineup in the title game.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to work for all year long -- to balance our scoring out,” BArT coach Robert Daugherty said. “We knew they were going to just target [Brandon and Isaac Bamba] every time. I don’t know what they scored [today], but it was definitely even scoring.
“The other guys came through. … And it’s kind of nice to hear them on the bench saying, ‘Come on, guys, defense.’ It’s usually, it’s about ‘Shoot the 3.’ They get it. Defense is the way we’re going to get the ball back to score. They’re really coming into a higher level of mental game, I think.”
Peets started the second half strong with a pair of blocks on Eagle Hill’s opening possession.
But moments later, he was on the bench icing down his knee, and the Pioneers built a 33-29 lead before he came back into the game with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the third.
Eagle Hill stretched its lead to five by the end of the quarter.
But BArT used an 11-4 run in the fourth to go up by a bucket. Peets capped the rally with a 3-pointer from the left side with four minutes left to make it 42-40.
After the teams traded empty trips for more than a minute, Carson knocked down a 3 to give the Pioneers a 43-42 lead with 2:35 left.
Brandon Bamba made a pair of free throws on BArT’s next possession, but Joaquin Soto-Jerome put back a rebound to take back the lead for Eagle Hill, and Carson hit his fourth 3-pointer of the second half to make it a four-point cushion with 43 seconds left.
After BArT missed a shot and Soto-Jerome grabbed the rebound with 28 seconds left, the Wolfpack was forced to foul. Eagle Hill missed the front-end of a one-and-one, but Dillon Foley got the offensive rebound, and Carson got to the line, where he hit one to make it 49-44 with 21.2 seconds left.
A BArT turnover led to another two-shot foul for Carson with 13.6 on the clock, and he made both to provide the final margin of victory.
The game was even closer than the seven-point final margin indicates, and it was light years closer than where the BArT program was when Peets, now a senior, was a freshman, Daugherty said.
“[Eagle Hill] beat us 86-6,” Daugherty said of Peets’ freshman campaign. “Everyone else was eighth-graders. I think we had a few seventh-graders. Playing against [an established program].
“They beat us 86-6, but we still played 100 percent. No one was holding their heads down. When I saw that, in seventh and eighth grade, I basically predicted that by now we’d be one of the teams to beat. … I kind of knew that was coming.”
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