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With all but one varsity player unavailable last Thursday night, Dec. 6, Newberry High's basketball Panthers brought up the whole junior varsity and went out to face the Bronson Eagles.
Bronson overwhelmed them 72-42 in a hard-fought mismatch.
Nine of Newberry's varsity players are on the football team that played Saturday for the state championship, and one more player was hurt. That left the Panthers' JV alone to handle the varsity Eagles.
They started off pretty well.
"The JV gave us all we wanted in the first half," Bronson head coach Kelly Beckham said.
Newberry came out game, riding two baskets from Chris Gilyard and a pair of threes from Josh Robinson to a 15-14 first quarter lead.
The Eagles had to reevaluate their position after the first eight minutes.
Bronson came with a renewed purpose from then on, tightening their defense and waxing the boards. Wilberton Encarnacion, William Harris and James Rivers each had a pair of buckets on the quarter, and Rivers banged inside to get to the line, sinking three of four.
Newberry had to redistribute its shooting, as Caleb Robinson had two baskets but couldn?t covert a three-point play, and Jodeci Williams also had a bucket. From down one, the Eagles finished the half leading 36-27.
With the game cracked open, the second half was all Bronson. Kelby Barber had nine of his game-high 15 points in the third quarter, on a pair of putbacks, a three-pointer and two free throws.
Continued defensive pressure also led to second chances as Dion Thomas scored off the fast break.
With the sides uneven, both teams opted to use the game as a learning opportunity. Beckham sat most of his starters, giving his bench players a chance to run the game.
Newberry head coach Chris Baker "Coach Beckham could have come in here and really run it up on us, but he?s a class act," Baker said. "I just hope we gave him enough to work with."
In the fourth quarter, although the Eagles led by a comfortable 55-33, both Beckham and Baker continued to experiment. Bronson got uptempo energy from Rodolfo Contreras leading the breaks, while Virgil Greenlee quietly put in six points. Joey Sparrow scored on a putback, and Luevell Mercer drove for two.
Baker kept the Panthers calm as they rallied back from the crushing third quarter, and Robinson, Williams and Bacarius Dinkins tried to put together a little run at the end.
"I'm happy our young kids got some experience," Baker said afterwards. "We've got to give their kids a lot of credit."
Beckham was likewise pleased at the low-pressure opportunity to run the offense and make some tweaks. After a pair of close losses to area rivals Williston and Dixie County, the Eagles are 3-2, and starting to put their game together.
"We're getting better," he said.
Bronson: Kelby Barber, 15; James Rivers, 13; William Harris, 11.
Newberry: Bacarius Dinkins, 9; Josh Robinson, 8; Jodeci Williams, 8.
BRONSON 65, CRYSTAL RIVER 25 – The Eagles defeated Crystal River Saturday to raise their record to 4-2.
The leading scorers for Bronson were Kelby Barber with 10. Luevelle Mercer with nine and Rodolfo Contreras with eight.