By Lisa Byers
After the final buzzer sounded, the Grove City boys basketball team huddled briefly outside its locker room door, shared a few fist bumps and then shuffled quickly inside to prepare a surprise for legendary head coach Don Fee.
In a season filled with adversity, the Eagles finally had reason to celebrate.
Grove City capped a 9-0 run with a layup by Spencer Marnich to take a 39-35 lead midway through the fourth quarter and held on for a 49-42 win over Meadville on Tuesday in Region 5 boys basketball action.
With the win, the Eagles locked up fourth place in Region 5 and likely earned a District 10 Class AAA playoff berth in the process. The official District 10 brackets should be released this weekend.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity,” said Fee, moments after receiving a celebratory shower courtesty of his players. “We had lost a kid to academic ineligibility. Then one of my starter’s father passed away a couple of weeks ago.
“He had surgery for cancer, came home from the hospital, had a heart attack and passed away suddenly.
“We have another player whose mother is struggling with cancer … Then there’s the weather which everyone has been dealing with.”
The Eagles quickly went from an 11-2 team to a 12-7 squad.
“It’s hard to get those back,” Fee said.
Grove City took a big step back on Friday, though, with a 72-69 win over Farrell and then finished off the job on Tuesday against a team that was fighting for its small playoff hopes.
The Bulldogs, who finish out their schedule with games against Oil City on Friday and Slippery Rock on Saturday, certainly had their chances against the Eagles.
Grove City won a heartbreaker against the Bulldogs back on Jan. 14 when Derek Turner hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Eagles a 57-54 win. Turner made sure the Bulldogs didn’t forget about him last night.
Turner scored 10 points in the first quarter and eight in the second to give the Eagles a 20-14 lead with 2:35 to play in the opening half.
Meadville finished out the half strong, though. Jason Clune hit a 3-pointer and connected on a putback, and Faizon McClure hit one of two free throw attempts to tie the scored at 20-20 at the break.
Grove City retook the lead with 5:23 to play in the third quarter, but Meadville answered with a 9-2 run to take a 29-24 lead with 1:32 left in the period. The Bulldogs maintained the lead and led 35-30 with 6:45 to play in the fourth quarter when the Eagles made their run.
“It was a typical game for us,” said Meadville coach Mark McElhinny. “We were a little out of sync. They made their foul shots and a couple shots down the stretch and we didn’t.”
The Bulldogs did make it exciting.
Grove City pushed its lead to five (42-37) on a 3-pointer by Foster Reznor with just under four minutes to play. Clune connected at the other end and Derek Niemann stepped in front of a pass and took it to the hoop on GC’s next possession to pull Meadville to within one (42-41).
The Eagles finished the game with a 7-1 run.
“We ran the floor and hustled,” McElhinny said. “You know the intensity is always there. It’s just putting it all together.”
Turner finished the game with 20 points. He scored just two in the second half against the defense of McClure.
Clune paced the Bulldogs with 18 points. Shequon Lindsey had a big game. He finished with 14 points and four blocks.