MOUNDSVILLE - Friday night's battle between West Virginia Class AAA sectional rivals Brooke and John Marshall looked like a high-stakes battle with postseason implications on the line.
A very physical contest with both teams finding a way to grab leads, but struggling to hold onto them. That is, of course, until Coach Dave Reitter's Bruins put their foot on the gas and took control during the final 3:09 of the game.
Brooke exploded for 30 points in the fourth quarter, including a game-changing 11-0 blitz late that was the deciding factor in a hard-fought 72-62 victory against the Monarchs at the John Marshall Fieldhouse.
When all was said and done it was turnovers and free throw shooting that allowed the Bruins to win for the second time in five games.
A telling stat was the fact that Coach Bill Storm's 1-5 John Marshall squad turned the ball over just four times in the first and third quarters combined and outscored their guests by a 30-22 margin.
However, the Monarchs committed 16 miscues in the second and fourth quarters that Brooke won by a 50-32 count.
"I really think that I may have subbed too much in that second quarter," Storm admitted. "But turnovers have been our bugaboo all along. But I believe overall that we improved greatly this week compared to how we played last week."
With Aaron Fonner, Tanner Filben and Derek Och all draining triples in the opening 8 minutes, the hosts were able to grab a 13-10 advantage after a quarter.
But the Bruins turned up the defensive pressure in the second period and used a 10-0 blast to get back into the contest after trailing by eight. Nick Breen and junior Jesse Gambellin each scored six in the frame as the half ended at 30-30.
John Marshall again took charge in the third, exiting with a 47-42 upper hand before Brooke caught fire. Knotted at 56-56, Rusty Schwertfeger's hoop at 3:09 gave the Bruins the lead for good and began a 11-0 spurt.
Eric Johnson, who tallied 10 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth, added a trey and two charity tosses during the deciding run.
"We have preached and preached to the kids to continue to play defense and be as aggressive as they can," Reitter said. "We tell them to believe in each other and get to the fourth quarter with a chance to win.
"With 3 minutes to go (Friday) we got a lot of contribution from kids and were able to find the open guy. The biggest thing is that we have a lot of kids that can contribute, but they need to recognize what they are on the court to do to help us.
"Creating turnovers lead to easier shots, so it is important to play good on that end. Teams can struggle if they have to consistently play in a half-court offense and have to create for themselves.
"It is always a big win to come on the road here and get a win. And this is a big win for us."
Breen chipped in 13 for the Bruins while Gambellin added 12 and Schwertfeger 10. Brooke turned the ball over just nine times to 20 for the Monarchs, and while the Bruins were outrebounded 30-27, they did have an 11-6 edge in the fourth quarter.
Filben kept the Monarchs either in the lead or within striking distance much of the way, burying five threes and finishing with a team-high 25 points. Fonner added 13.
"There really were some positives for us (Friday)," Storm said. "We have been struggling to score points, so for us to put up 62 is a very good thing, but I am also real disappointed with our defense.
"We have some kids that just don't understand basketball at this level and it is a hard thing to adjust on the run."
The teams were very similar from the floor with Brooke hitting 23 of 49 shots and the John Marshall finishing 23 of 50. However, the Bruins were 20 of 32 from the line and the Monarchs just 9 of 17.