It may have taken eight tries, but Barnesville finally won on the road this boys' basketball season.
The Shamrocks (6-11) had been winless in seven tries so far this season away from home, but that all stopped Tuesday night as the visitors meshed 19 free throws - 11 in the fourth quarter - en route to a repeat, 55-45, victory over homestanding Bridgeport inside the John J. Havlicek Gymnasium.
"Once you get on that streak of not winning on the road, it's like the first game of the season. The first one is the hardest to win," Barnesville head coach Chris Pack allowed. "I think we may have finally turned the corner. We had some younger guys really step up tonight."
The Bulldogs (3-13) led 12-10 after eight minutes and held a 27-26 edge at the half despite Dylan MacMillan's three-pointer at the buzzer from just across halfcourt.
Isaac McGee opened the second half with a bonus bomb as the Shamrocks took a short-lived, 29-27, lead. After Bridgeport's Jonathan Kreiter tied the game at 29, Barnesville went on a 13-6 run to lead 42-35 after three panels.
Burly Zach Houston led the Green-clad visitors with seven of his nine points in the stanza. He barely played in the first quarter and didn't see any action in the second quarter. However, Pack knew he'd come through when needed.
"Zach wasn't rebounding early on, and that's why he found himself on the bench," Pack noted of his 6-1, 220-pound senior. "He got back into better position offensively and defensively that allowed us to get some second looks."
David Stewart and Houston each meshed a pair of free throws to give Barnesville a 47-39 advantage with 5:10 remaining to play, but Bridgeport wasn't about to roll over and play dead.
The Bulldogs got two charity tosses from Aaron Roth and another pair from Dallas Fields to make it 47-43 at the 4:39 mark.
A steal and ensuing layup by Fields cut the margin to 47-45 with 3:39 on the clock as Pack called timeout to settle his troops down.
"Sometimes we do some un-smart things at times," he said, "but tonight we did enough good things to pull one out."
After back-to-back turnovers, Bridgeport missed a wide-open look from three-point land and Barnesville proceeded to tickle the twine on 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch to seal the deal.
"We started making some free throws down the stretch," Pack said.
For Bridgeport head coach Donnie Cash, he's seen this play out before.
"We just couldn't make a play at the end or make a shot," he said. "We went ice-cold from the floor, both at the end of the first half and at the end of the game."
Brandon Burkhart led a trio of Shamrocks in twin figures with 13. Stewart and McGee evenly divided 20 and Houston finished with nine. MacMillan pulled down nine rebounds and Houston snagged seven.
Parker Dyson, Bridgeport's 6-5 sophomore, scored a team-best 10 points and grabbed nine boards. He also blocked half-a-dozen shots. QJ Williams had nine points before fouling out with 5:32 left to play. Bailey McGrath knocked down a trio of treys for nine points off the bench.
Bridgeport had 13 turnovers, four more than Barnesville. The Shamrocks had two more rebounds at 33-31.
The Bulldogs remain at home Thursday when Weirton Madonna visits for a 7:30 p.m. varsity-only contest. They also host Frontier Friday. Barnesville returns to Western Belmont County to welcome Shadyside Friday.
Bridgeport won the JV game.
BARNESVILLE (55) - Burkhart 5 3-6 13; MacMillan 3 0-0 7; Stewart 2 5-6 10; McGee 3 2-2 10; Houston 1 7-10 9; Anderson 2 2-8 6; Totals: 16-48 19-32. BRIDGEPORT (45) - Roth 0 2-2 2; Fields 2 2-2 6; Kreiter 2 0-0 5; Williams 3 3-6 9; Dyson 5 0-0 10; McGrath 3 0-2 9; Teeman 2 0-0 4; Cash 0 0-0 0; Totals: 17-51 7-12.
Three-Point Goals: Barnesville 4 (McGee 2, MacMillan, Stewart); Bridgeport 4 (McGrath 3, Kreiter)
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