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Bureau Valley’s Tommy Johnston (No. 33), Brian Lange (No. 22), Parker Nehalfen (No. 15) and other Storm players celebrate after beating Putnam County 62-54 on Saturday in the Wally Keller Invitational at Kewanee Wethersfield. NewsTribune photo/Anthony Soufflé
KEWANEE — The Bureau Valley boys basketball team used a third-quarter surge to create some breathing room in a tight contest and held off a late Putnam County push to earn a 62-54 win Saturday and a third-place finish in Wethersfield’s Wally Keller Invitational.
“We had an upbeat halftime, we’ll say that,” said Bureau Valley coach Jason Marquis, whose squad was troubled by the PC press and zone defense early and surrendered 12 first-half turnovers. “But man, our kids persevered. There were times when things didn’t look perfect — not every ball bounced our way, not every call goes your way, but the kids persevered.”
Trailing 27-25 at intermission, the Storm rolled out of the break with a 19-point third quarter led by 10 points by sophomore Parker Neuhalfen to take a 44-33 advantage into the final eight minutes.
The Panthers pushed back early in the fourth with an 8-0 run capped off by a basket and 3-pointer from Cody Veronda to pull within three at 51-48 with 2:55 to play.
Neuhalfen proved why he was an all-tournament team selection down the stretch as the sophomore standout knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the next minute and a half to help the Storm withstand the PC rally and hold on to the victory.
“The kid is growing up,” Marquis said of Neuhalfen. “What can you say about Parker? He doesn’t care if he scores two or 20 or 40 — he just cares about getting the ‘W.’ … It couldn’t happen to a better kid. Our team looks up to him and respects him. The seniors look to him for some leadership and he stepped up when we really needed him.”
The sophomore standout led BV with 20 points — 18 of which came in the second half — and grabbed six rebounds.
Classmate Tommy Johnston, who also earned all-tournament honors, added 14 points, senior Brian Lange scored 11 points and hauled in a team-best nine rebounds and senior Bryce Hansen tallied 11 points, including a pair of second-half 3-pointers, to round out the well-balanced Storm (3-2) attack.
Veronda led Putnam County (2-3) with 20 points while junior all-tournament pick Harold Fay added 18 for the Panthers.
“It was too little, too late. We couldn’t score in the third,” PC coach Josh Nauman said. “We decided we were going to make one pass and force up a shot. The fourth quarter we finally started getting patient and reversing the ball and all of the sudden we start scoring — it’s amazing how that works. For whatever reason, it takes us half a game to figure that out.
“We did a good job with (defensive pressure) throughout the game. We forced a lot of turnovers (18), we just couldn’t capitalize on a lot of them. Offensively, we just have to get better. ... Rebounding and missed shots inside the lane were killing us tonight.”
The host Flying Geese won the tournament title after a 5-0 finish in the round-robin format, while Elmwood finished second.
Wethersfield junior guard Trevor Lay was named tournament MVP. Senior Grant Baele of Annawan, seniors Jake Soehn and Nick Jehle of Elmwood, junior Nick Varvil of Midland and Wethersfield junior Matt Jenkins also were all-tournament selections.
Note: Putnam county senior guard Xavier Warren was out of the Panthers’ starting lineup after sustaining a head laceration on Friday.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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