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Jets Dig Deep To Top St. Clairsville

Photo by Kristin Mazgaj Union Local’s D.J. Butts goes up for a shot as St. Clairsville’s Tyson Pastor defends.

MORRISTOWN — Union Local knew it needed a bounce-back performance following its loss at Martins Ferry last Friday.

The Jets got that and much, much more Tuesday evening when they welcomed debuting St. Clairsville into ‘The Hangar.’

Capitalizing on hustle plays, foul shooting and a couple of clutch stops down the stretch, the Jets pulled out a hard-earned 67-61 victory in front of a big and loud crowd.

“Honestly, it was just a bunch of kids digging down deep and finding a way,” Union Local head coach Zach Delman said. “I don’t know if there were a lot of people, around the area, who gave us a chance (Tuesday) after the way we played at Martins Ferry. I think our kids may have even doubted it a little bit, but we got a lead, built some energy and the kids started believing.”

The Jets carried a 42-37 lead into the fourth quarter, but the excitement was just beginning.

After a beautifully executed set to open the quarter was squandered when the Jets missed a layup, the Red Devils appeared to have gathered some momentum. They scored the first eight points of the fourth and took a 45-42 lead when sophomore Cole Thoburn cashed in a 3-pointer.

Union Local didn’t even blink.

The Jets proceeded to score 14 of the next 22 to take the lead for good. Fueling the spurt were juniors D.J. Butts, Beezer Porter and Carter Blake. Senior Elijah Butterworth hit a big trey that put the Jets back on top at 48-47.

“We kept making plays when we needed them,” Delman said. “We showed some maturity and toughness. We talk about being physically and mentally tough every day. How you bounce back when face adversity and react to the next play is what goes a long way in determining games.”

The Devils got back within two at 56-54 when senior Colin Oberdick, who scored 15 points in the game, recorded a conventional 3-point play. However, Union Local junior Gannon Kerns, who was a significant spark plug off the bench, got an inside bucket, but St. C. senior Ryan McCort — who poured in a game-high 32 — buried another triple.

That began the parade to the foul line and the Jets cashed in. Butts, who led Union Local with 20 points and 10 rebounds, was 6 of 8 from the line in the fourth. All told, Union Local meshed 14 of 17 in the fourth and 25 of 35 for the game.

“Give Union Local credit because they made plays and free throws down the stretch,” St. Clairsville head coach Ryan Clifford said. “I thought we put the guys at the line we wanted there, but those kids stepped up and made (the shot).”

On top of that, Union Local seemed to come up with loose ball after loose ball and owned a commanding 32-20 edge on the glass.

“I thought they got all of the loose balls and outhustled us at times,” Clifford said. “There’s no such thing as a 50-50 balls. It has to 80-20 or you can’t play. We have to come up with those balls. It was 80-20, but it was in their favor.”

The Red Devils were also guilty of 15 turnovers, which was one more than the winners.

“We looked, at times, like we had some opening-night jitters,” Clifford said. “It felt like there were times when we got caught looking at the moment instead of concentrating on what was being called. It looked like opening night, but this has been a traditionally tough place to play and this wasn’t the best situation for us. We battled and gave ourselves some chances.”

The Jets were balanced across the scoring column. Butts’ production was backed by Porter, who found his way to 13 despite sticky defense being played by Oberdick much of the night. Kerns and Butterworth each had 10 and Blake had nine points and a like number of rebounds.

“We won the hustle play battle, rebounded well and grinded it out,” Delman said. “We made enough plays.”

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