Bulldogs beat Cougars at horn

MILL CREEK – Ben Sycafoose was the hero for Tygarts Valley Monday night against PVC foe East Hardy.

Milliseconds before the buzzer sounded, Sycafoose launched a shot from behind the arc that swished in and lifted the Bulldogs to a thrilling 49-48 victory and denying the Cougars their first win of the season.

The evening started with the return of Derrick Villarico to the Bulldogs’ lineup. Villarico had been sidelined this year due to an injury suffered during football season.

Tygarts Valley scored the first six points of the contest and raced out to a 10-2 lead before the Cougars started to find any rhythm.

A string of made 3-pointers from the wing from East Hardy, along with cold shooting from the hosts, allowed the visitors to make up the deficit quickly and the game was tied at 15-all with 1:25 left in the first quarter. After field goals by both teams, the score after one quarter stood at 17-17.

East Hardy flirted with the lead before tying the game in the second stanza at 19 and again at 22.

David Shifflett then gave the Cougars their first advantage, 26-24, on a trey with a 1:30 to go in the first half.

Tygarts Valley’s Tyler Shiflett answered back with a scoop layup, however, and later added a free throw to keep the Bulldogs ahead by one, 27-26, as the teams went into the locker rooms.

The third quarter was a series of runs. Layups by Ben Strawderman and a 3-pointer by Tim Hahn enabled the Cougars to take their largest lead of the night at 33-27.

The Bulldogs responded with a 9-2 run of their own to go back in front before East Hardy scored the final two buckets and held a 39-36 advantage at the end of the stanza.

The two teams went back and forth to begin the final quarter.

Tygarts Valley went ahead on a layup and a long two-pointer before another three by Hahn helped East Hardy go up 44-40. The Bulldogs then tied the game at 45-45.

With less than two minutes in the game, the Cougars charged in front again on an old-fashioned 3-pointer and things looked gloomy for the home team.

That set up the final possessions.

Tygarts Valley seemed stifled by a tough East Hardy defense in the game’s last minute.

Finally, Villarico put up a contested shot that missed, but he was fouled on the play and made one of his two free throws to bring his team closer at 48-46.

With just over 30 seconds to go, the Cougars’ Michael Miller stepped to the line after being fouled by Tygarts Valley.

With a chance to make it a two- possession game, Miller missed the front end and the Bulldogs took possession.

After running the clock down, Tygarts Valley coach Tom Wamsley called a timeout with 11.4 seconds left to set up the final play.

That play never happened though. When the action resumed, East Hardy choked off any openings for a clean shot. With time slipping away, a loose ball found its way to Sycafoose and he just reacted, tossing the highly-contested shot into the air. The ball went in clean as the horn sounded and the crowd erupted in jubilation.

“That is certainly not the way we drew that up,” said a happy coach Wamsley after the sensational finish.

“It was a nice gift for us I guess, but we didn’t play our best ball tonight. We didn’t seem to focus well.

“I don’t know if it’s because its Christmas week or they looked at East Hardy’s record. I told them if we had played East Hardy’s schedule we might have been winless too.”

Not only was Sycafoose the hero, he was the leading scorer. He put up 14 points for the hosts.

Villarico scored nine in his return and Jace Kyle followed with eight points.

Hahn and Miller both poured in a dozen points for the visitors, and Strawderman tossed in nine.

The Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0 PVC) will take part in the Elkins Holiday Tournament on Friday and Saturday. They take on host team Elkins at 7:30 p.m. on the first night and play Philip Barbour at 5:45 p.m. the second evening.

East Hardy will travel into Virginia to take part in the Strasburg Tournament on Friday and Saturday as well.