NEW MADISON – For the second year in a row, the Ansonia Tigers are the Patriot Holiday Classic tournament champions.
Ansonia had a strong fourth quarter – mainly at the free throw line – to come from behind for a thrilling 57-53 win over tournament host Tri-Village on Saturday. The Tigers were down by three points (35-32) heading into the final frame and connected on 12-of-16 free throws down the stretch to pull out the victory.
Andrew Rowland was a perfect 4-for-4 at the line in the fourth period, and teammate Matthew Farrier hit 3-of-6 to help lift the Tigers.
“It feels great to get this tournament championship,” Ansonia coach Devin Limburg said coming out of the locker room carrying the team trophy. “It feels better that we were able to get revenge on their home floor from the season opener.”
Tri-Village defeated Ansonia 58-49 in overtime in the Tigers’ season opener back on Dec. 7.
“I have seen a difference from then to now in our guys,” Limburg said. “I think we are starting to realize who we are as a team and we are really coming together. They wanted this game pretty bad. They felt like (Tri-Village) took one from us that first night and they just wanted this. And we made our free throws too.”
It was a back-and-forth game the entire 32 minutes as Ansonia had a first quarter lead of 12-7 and a halftime lead of 23-21. While the Patriots struggled slightly on offense in the first half, they came out with a sense of urgency in the second half as Derek Eyer found every way imaginable to get the ball inside whether it was slashing to the hole himself or passing off to a wide open shooter.
“Derek has been like that all year for us,” Tri-Village coach Mackenzie Perry said of Eyer, who finished with a game-high 21 points. He had 12 of those in the second half. “We knew we could drive baseline with him and try to get him to the rim and we did and it was excellent. He was a difference maker tonight, but this is the same stuff I see in practice. I just love it when something happens in practice and then it happens in a game. He’s a good kid and he has been a leader for us. I’m glad he got to flourish. I just wish we came out with a W.”
What also helped Tri-Village was the second opportunities they were getting underneath the basket. On several possessions, the Patriots got some putback buckets against the taller Tigers.
The final period continued to be a back-and-forth game in the first four minutes, but with the game tied at 44-44 and 3l;15 on the clock, Hunter Buckingham nailed a pair of free throws to put Ansonia on top for the last time. Tri-Village kept it close, however, getting within one point at 52-51 after Eyer hit a pair of free throws with 34 seconds remaining, but Farrier then hit 1-of-2 free throws and Rowland nailed two more with 15 seconds left for a 55-51 lead. Patriot freshman Laybne Sarver got a slam dunk opportunity that cut it back to 55-53, but TV had to foul again sending Matthew Shook to the line with 1 second left and he hit both for the final margin.
“A couple of layups didn’t go down and a couple of shots didn’t go down and you know it just comes down to making plays and they made their free throws when they needed to and they made layups when they needed to,” Perry said. “It is what it is, but I am proud of this team. I really am. We had a game plan and executed best we could, but sometimes it comes down to a shot here or a shot there and that’s what it came down to tonight. Give Ansonia credit. They came in with a game plan and they executed it. That’s how the cookie crumbles sometimes.”
Buckingham finished the game with 10 points for the Tigers. Coupled with his 19-point performance against Eaton on Friday night, the Ansonia junior was named the MVP of the tournament.
“It feels amazing,” Buckingham said of the award. “It was a great team win. Nobody really stood out. We all put our stuff together and came as one to finish it out. We really wanted to win this one. We don’t get opportunities like this to play a team and lose to them in an overtime situation and then be able to come back and beat them by a couple points. We have definitely matured since that overtime loss at the beginning of the season. We have become more of a team and that is how we ended up winning this game.”
Buckingham was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Rowland and Hunter Muir. Rowland had a team-high 14 points in the win over Tri-Village and Muir contributed 8 points.
“Buckingham had 19 last night and 10 tonight so I’m happy for him to be MVP,” Limburg said. “It is not only the shots he makes, but he draws the defense to him and we are able to get looks off that. And it is not just about offense for him either. I assign him one of their toughest guys on defense and he was able to keep him in front the whole time. He knows that is what he has to do and I trust him doing it.
“We had to defend our title,” he continued. “Free throws were a difference for us, but I think it also was just being aware of where we need to be on each play and what they are hurting us on and adjusting from that. And also not freaking out in moments when they get up a bucket or two and be able to get one back and stay right there in the game. That kind of happened in the third quarter. They started scoring and got up 5 or 6 points, but we answered right back which was big.
“The turning point in the game I think was late in the fourth quarter we had about four possessions in a row where we just got stops,” he continued. “We were able to get the rebound and then knocked our free throws down at the other end.”
For their two-day efforts, Tri-Village’s Gage Hileman and Eyer was also named to the All-Tournament team, as was Eaton’s Hunter Frost.
In addition to Rowland’s team-high 14 points, Shook had 12 points, Buckingham had 10 and Farrier had 10 for the Tigers.
For the Patriots, after Eyer’s 21 points were Sarver with 13 and Austin Bruner with 10.
Both teams return to action on the road on Friday night. Ansonia heads to Bradford, while Tri-Village goes to Franklin-Monroe.
In the consolation game, Eaton defeated Jefferson Township 75-48.
Score by quarters
Ansonia – Matthew Farrier 3 4 10, Hunter Buckingham 3 1 10, Ethan Fischer 1 1 3, Matthew Shook 4 3 12, Hunter Muir 3 2 8, Andrew Rowland 4 6 14. Totals: 18 17 57.
Tri-Village – Gage Hileman 2 0 5, Austin Bruner 4 0 10, Derek Eyer 6 9 21, Layne Sarver 6 0 13, Darrell Lee 2 0 4. Totals: 20 9 53.
3-pointers – Ansonia 4 (Buckingham 3, Shook), Tri-Village 4 (Bruner 2, Hileman, Sarver)
Records: Ansonia (xx), Tri-Village (xx)
The Daily Advocate sports editor Skip Weaver can be reached at (937) 569-4316 or by email at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @skipweaver65.