By Cort Reynolds

Ada Herald Writer

McGUFFEY - After 31 minutes of regulation action in the well-played, annual Ada/Upper Scioto Valley boys basketball grudge match Saturday night, the score was tied.

The scrappy Bulldogs had run off eight consecutive points, six by guard Blake Willeke, to knot it just inside the final minute. Two clutch foul shots by the sophomore tied the contest 53-53 with 57.1 seconds left.

But host USV canned six straight free throws and helped force a critical turnover in the final minute to pull out a hard-fought 60-55 victory.

The Rams improved to 7-1 with the win, while Ada fell to 1-5 with their third straight tough loss to teams with a combined record of 19-5.

USV senior Lane Hurley splashed a pair of charity stripers with 42 seconds left to regain the lead, 55-53. Ada then committed a costly miscue when a long crosscourt pass turned into a held ball, with USV gaining the critical possession by virtue of the alternating arrow with 26.2 ticks remaining.

Savvy Ram senior Dylan Hunsicker was fouled two seconds later and made both crucial foul shots to put the hosts on top by four. Ada sophomore Brayden Sautter canned a determined driving layup to keep the Bulldogs alive with 9.7 seconds to go.

But Hurley converted two more free throws with 8.2 left to seal the outcome, and another foul shot with a second to go provided the final margin of five.

"You have to give Ada credit, they played hard and well," said second-year Ram coach Jeff Kloepfer. "It's a rivalry game, so you can forget the records."

Veteran Ada coach Chris Sautter was understandably disappointed by the close outcome.

"We haven't had one game yet where everybody showed up to play on the same night," said Sautter. "Until we do that, we will keep getting close but not getting wins. We battled back from 53-45 down, but you can't take possessions off."

The game was tight throughout, with Ada up two after one period and tied at halftime. USV pulled ahead 42-36 after three quarters behind eight big points by senior post Woody Prater.

Bulldog senior Austin Dumbaugh drained a trifecta from the left side and added a foul shot to open the final stanza.

Prater answered with a layup off an in-bounds pass, but a big left wing triple by Willeke sliced the Bulldog deficit to 44-43 with 5:25 remaining.

Prater converted another layin off a Hurley post entry feed and Willeke responded with two foul shots at the 4:18 mark.

Austin Howard then buried a high-arching left corner triple to put the Rams up by four at the 3:54 juncture. Braidon Rostorfer banked in a driving shot, and USV blocked a Sautter foray into the lane.

Hunsicker sank a short banker to put the Rams on top 53-45 with 2:16 left, capping a 7-0 Ram run.

Seconds later Willeke converted two foul shots and USV turrned the ball over. Willeke then snaked down the left baseline and dropped in a fine power layup with 1:30 remaining.

Ada then stole an errant pass, Spencer Archer was fouled and he canned two clutch foul shots to pull the Bulldogs within 53-51 with 1:24 to go.

Hunsicker then forced a shot, missed and Ada rebounded. Willeke tied it on two free tosses with 57.1 seconds left before USV went on its finalclosing flurry, going 7-8 from the line, to win it.

"Dylan and Lane knocked down some big free throws," said Kloepfer. "You have to be able to hit foul shots when the pressure is on."

When USV inched in front 55-53, Kloepfer switched Hunsicker onto the red-hot Willeke and expected Ada to go to Dumbaugh. But Prater was able to deflect the long pass, then dove and tied up the loose ball to get the all-important possession.

"Woody brings us a lot of energy, we need him on the court," said Kloepfer. "He got to that pass with hustle and length. I thought our energy was much better in the second half."

Ada had planned to get the ball inside to Dumbaugh on the key play, Sautter admitted. "We had a play to run and we didn't run it," he said. "We were trying to isolate Austin. You have to run plays correctly in late-game situations."

The Bulldogs jumped to a 3-0 lead on a Sautter layin and a free throw by Willeke. USV took the lead back on two inside baskets by Prater and a drive by Hurley.

Grant McBride tied it for Ada on a left-handed layup, yet Howard stole the ball and fed Hunsicker for a layin.

Levi Bass responded with an inside bucket via a Dumbaugh assist. McBride tied it 10-all on a pair of foul shots, but Hunter Howard bounced in a foul line jumper.

Sautter drilled a trey from the top of the key, and Dumbaugh banked in a drive just before the first period buzzer to give Ada a 15-13 edge.

Hunsicker and Dumbaugh traded triples to open the second stanza. A traditional three-point play by Bass gave Ada a 21-18 advantage, yet Austin Howard tied it on a left corner trey.

Four Hunsicker points followed by a steal and breakaway layup by Austin Howard inched the hosts ahead, 27-23.

Bass then cut backdoor, took a fine pass from Archer and banked in a layup as he fell to the floor. Sautter isolated on the last play of the half and executed a fine driving spin move to knot it 27-all just before the halftime horn.

Prater had been sidelined by foul trouble in the first half, and he came out fired up to start the third stanza. He canned a reverse layup and a nice baseline spin move. Bass countered with a nice driving double-pump scoop off glass.

Yet when Ada doubled down on Prater, he made a nice pass to an open Rostorfer, who drained a corner three.

"If you sag in on Prater, he can find the shooters," Sautter noted.

Willeke answered by sinking a short bank shot. But Prater splashed two free throws and scored on a left block post-up to give USV its largest lead at 38-31 with five minutes left in the period.

Just when it looked like Ada might be faltering, Willeke drilled a corner triple from Dumbaugh. Archer then reversed his field and made a nice driving layin at the three-minute mark to pull Ada within two.

Hurley came back with a left-handed penetration move, and Hunsicker scored off a fine move inside to put the Rams back on top by six heading to the final period.

Willeke led all scorers with 19 points, but was the only Bulldog in double digits. Sautter, Dumbaugh and Bass each contributed nine markers.

Prater topped well-balanced USV with 16 points. Hunsicker scored 15 points and Hurley netted 11. Austin Howard added nine points.

"Woody was big for us in the second half," said Kloepfer.

The Bulldogs canned 16 of 19 from the charity stripe (84 percent) while the Rams sank 12 of 15 (80 percent).

It was the third consecutive win for USV over the Bulldogs after a decade of dominance in the rivalry by Ada.

USV also won the junor varsity game, 47-42. Blake Ansley scored 14 points and Owen Conley netted a dozen for Ada. Stephens and Cornell each tallied 13 to pace the Ram reserves.

Ada 55 (1-5)

Sautter 4 0-0 9, Willeke 4 9-10 19, McBride 1 3-4 5, Dumbaugh 3 1-2 9, Bass 4 1-1 9, Archer 1 2-2 4, Ansley 0.

Totals: 12-5/16-19/55. 3-pointers: Dumbaugh 2, Willeke 2, Sautter 1.

USV 60 (7- 1)

Hurley 3 5-6 11, Hunsicker 5 4-4 15, W. Prater 7 2-2 16, Rostorfer 3 0-0 7, A. Howard 3 1-2 9, H. Howard 1 0-0 2, Simon 0.

Totals: 18-4/12-15/60. 3-pointers: A. Howard 2, Rostorfer 1, Hunsicker 1.

1 2 3 4 F

Ada 15 12 9 19 55

USV 13 14 13 20 60

JV: USV 47, Ada 42.

Weather permitting, Ada is slated to play at Wapakoneta (3-4) in a makeup contest Tuesday, January 7.

After six consecutive road contests, the Bulldogs (0-2 NWC) finally return home to host Delphos Jefferson (6-4, 0-2 NWC) in a Northwest Conference game Friday, Jan. 10. The lone Bulldog home game thus far was the season-opening loss to Crestview on Dec. 13.

USV plays at Ottoville next Friday. "It will be a tough game over there," Kloepfer warned.