Second half swoon sinks Cowboys
LITCHFIELD - You kind of figured the Litchfield Cowboys were okay, in good shape. The early nerves had been steadied and the ship righted. They would go on to ride the home court and home crowd to a first-round Class S state tournament victory.
Well, that was the way it was supposed to go. But, the state tournament has a way of writing its own ending and this one didn’t favor Litchfield. No. 19 Bolton proceeded to sink the ship convincingly in the final 16 minutes for a 61-41 win Monday night.
Clearly feeling some post-season pressure early, the Cowboys got off to a shaky start not scoring their first basket until four minutes had gone by and falling behind, 10-4. But they adjusted to the helter-skelter atmosphere and trailed by just a point, 25-24, at the half.
But the big push never came. In fairness, a lot of the problem was Bolton. The Bulldogs have kind of a wild-child attitude, coming at you and zipping around with abandon. No pretty, but at times pretty difficult to deal with. And Litchfield struggled to deal with it.
The Cowboys managed just two third quarter baskets and seven baskets in a 17-point second half. Execution was hard to find and baskets even harder.
“It wasn’t so much (Bolton’s athleticism), it was their consistent ball pressure and aggressiveness,” said Litchfield’s senior center Matt Schweter the lone Cowboy to put a dent in the Bulldgos with 17 points). We came out flat and they were ready to go. We needed to come out with more fire and we didn’t.”
After “The Real” Tom Brady nailed a three-pointer to bring Litchfield to within, 30-27, with 6:32 left in the third quarter, Litchfield would proceed to score one basket the remainder of the quarter. Meanwhile Bolton was on the move.
Eric Bycholski (20 points, 13 rebounds), the Bulldogs 6-foot-5 center, hit a pair of free throws and a layup followed by a Aidan O’Brien’s layup for a 36-29 lead. Bolton then spread the floor, going into a modified four-corners offense and picked their baskets. An O’Brien trey made it 42-29 by the end of the quarter.
“We played the second half smart, the kids listened to their coaches,” said Bolton coach Jeffrey Scott-Graves. “We used our strength. We have size inside and not a lot teams in Division V have that. We started to go inside.”
Bolton also picked out who it needed to stop for Litchfield.
“(Schweter) is good and (Jared Guilmart) and (Brady) are high energy,” said Scott-Graves. “Our focus points were those three players. We made our defense adjust in the second half.”
There was no big-time comeback for the Cowboys. The game never got closer than 11 points in the fourth quarter. O’Brien and Dion Johnson chipped in with 15 points for the Bulldogs (10-11).
“We were nervous and did not do a good job getting into our offense,” said Litchfield coach Dan Goscinski. “I thought we got some good looks early but we didn’t make anything. Their big kid (Bycholski) got three fouls in the first half and we wanted to pound the ball inside to Matt (Schweter). But I thought we ended up watching Matt too much. We weren’t patient enough.”