BUFFALO GAP — Fort Defiance outscored Buffalo Gap 27-14 in the final quarter Friday night to pull away for a 78-64 victory in the final game of the regular season for both boys basketball teams.
Now, Fort will get the chance to play one more game. The Indians’ victory, coupled with Wilson’s loss to Staunton, means Fort and Wilson finish with identical records. The two teams will play a special playoff game Tuesday at Stuarts Draft High School to determine which team will receive the automatic regional bid.
Gap got off to a quick start as Weston Smith scored the Bison’s first eight points to spark the hosts to a 10-2 advantage. Gap led by eight, 16-8, after one quarter, but the Indians battled back in the second quarter.
Vincent Sipe scored Fort’s first seven points of the second quarter to keep the Indians in striking distance, trailing 22-15. A bucket by Tanner Rivenburg put Gap up 24-15, but Fort rallied with an 11-2 run to pull even on the scoreboard. Sipe hit a 3-pointer and Ryan Cook scored on a driving layup to make it a two-point game. Kaden Johnson then added two foul shots to tie the score at 26-26.
Gap regained the lead with a 7-0 spurt, capped by Cameron Lyle’s three-point play, to take a 33-26 lead. A 3-pointer by Johnson trimmed the deficit to four and, after Bennett Bowers scored for Gap, Sipe scored after grabbing an offensive rebound to keep the Gap lead at four, 35-31. Two late free throws by Jerry Horning pulled the Indians to within two, 35-33, at the break.
“I think we turned the ball over on our first three possessions,” said Fort coach Brandon Fulk. “I didn’t like our on-ball defense and we didn’t rebound at all in the first half. I told the guys at halftime if we quit turning the ball over we would score. I think we turned it over just three times in the second half.”
A 3-pointer by Sipe near the midway point of the third quarter gave Fort its first lead of the game, 45-44. The advantage didn’t last long as Gap scored the next six points on a layup by Smith and two buckets by Blake Holden to lead 50-45. The Indians responded with the final six points of the quarter to lead 51-50 entering the final period.
Then, Sipe took over. The Fort junior scored 11 points early in the quarter to ignite a 17-4 Fort run. Sipe opened the quarter with a 3-pointer and Joshua Jones scored on a post move inside. Gap countered with a bucket by Holden and two foul shots by Andrew Weatherman as Fort led 56-54.
Sipe then scored eight straight points, hitting two straight from 3-point range, and Cook added two points on a runner in the lane as Fort’s lead swelled to double digits, 66-54. Daniel Torres capped the run with a nice move in the paint, making the score 68-54.
Bowers momentarily slowed the Fort run with a 3-pointer, but the Indians scored the next eight points to put the game out of reach.
“Vincent Sipe was unbelievable. He couldn’t miss,” said Fulk. “Ryan (Cook) had another really good game, but gosh, we had some many different guys contribute tonight. It was fun to watch. Kaden (Johnson) was huge off the bench with nine points. Evan Sutton scored seven off the bench.
“We were really efficient on offense in the second half and we were better on defense, not great, but better,” Fulk continued. “Once we got the lead, we did a good job of managing the lead and then stretching it out.”
Sipe led the Indians with 28 points and Cook added 18. Smith scored 19 for the Bison, followed by Holden with 11 points and Rivenburg with 10.