BRIDGEPORT - As the high school basketball season winds down, coaches like to see their teams strive to reach their peak. Donnie Cash is no different.
With a little more than a week until the cut-off for the Wheeling Hospital OVAC boys' championships, Cash's Bridgeport squad is taking each game as it could be it last.
"I told the guys that we have to take each game like it's a tournament game," Cash said after watching his Bulldogs (9-5) defeat visiting Beallsville, 54-41, on Friday night on Frank Baxter Court. "With the way the weather has been, you don't know how many (games) you're going to get in."
The contest was originally scheduled to be played in Beallsville, but a malfunction in the boiler system at the school forced the Blue Devils to trek Bridgeport for the second time this season.
"I would like to thank Beallsville for their cooperation through this unfortunate situation," Cash said. "It was a lot nicer playing on our floor rather than traveling down there."
Beallsville, much to the liking of rookie coach Jordan Stephens, executed its game plan to near perfection in the first quarter in building a 11-10 advantage. The Blue Devils held the upperhand until the latter stages of the second quarter when the hosts turned up the defensive pressure.
"We wanted to press, but we were waiting until the second quarter to see how our man-to-man was going," Cash said.
That brief stretch, according to Stephens, was the turning point in the contest.
"You can't have those kind of turnovers at that point in the game," he said. "We were doing well early, but then they started pressing us. Turnovers have been our Achille's heel all year against pressure.
Bridgeport junior QJ Williams was the beneficiary of a couple of those easy buckets as he tallied eight of his team-high 17 in the stretch as the Bulldogs led 28-19 at the break.
Despite the lead, Cash was not happy with the way his team started out.
"We've just got to get a better start to the game," he said. "It's been a trend the last couple of games, but when it comes to tournament time, if you don't start out good and fall behind, someone will put you away early."
Bridgeport added to its margin thanks to a 14-12 scoring edge in the third. Logan Nippert's running bank shot from just inside the halfcourt stripe beat the buzzer as the Bulldogs led 42-31.
A 9-1 run to start the fourth quarter sealed the deal as the Blue Devils couldn't connect from the floor and had trouble keeping a grip on the ball.
Backing Williams in double digits were classmate Bailey McGrath with 15 and sophomore pivot Parker Dyson with 10. Dyson completed his double-double with 10 rebounds, while also blocking a trio of shots. J.C. Cash added nine points.
"We spread the ball around pretty good again," Cash said of the balanced scoring. "That's what we need to do to be successful."
Tristan Palmer led the Blue Devils with 14 points, two more than teammate Dalton Secrest, who also grabbed eight rebounds. Nippert finished with seven lightings.
Bridgeport, which was fourth in the OVAC 2A standings entering the week, goes on the road for games next week at Barnesville and Madonna.