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By Jim Manion | Correspondent
The Windham Bombers used a strong fourth quarter Friday night to seal the deal as they exit the Portage Trail Conference County Division. The Bombers outscored their rival Garfield G-Men in the annual "Cure for a Cause" game with an 18-8 fourth-quarter assault.
The 70-55 victory seals a perfect 14-0 County Division season and a 20-2 overall regular-season mark as the Bombers move on to Division IV tournament action before heading for their new league next season.
The overflowing standing-room-only crowd saw a spirited Garfield team match the Bombers for three quarters, but the pressure mounted and turnovers in the final stanza spelled defeat.
The G-Men had 13 turnovers in the first three quarters, but the Bombers turned up the intensity in the final eight minutes. After trailing by only five points entering the last quarter, Garfield committed 10 turnovers. The contest was much closer than the 15-point final margin of victory on the scoreboard.
"It was just a great atmosphere for the kids," said veteran Windham coach Marty Hill. "I thought we played a little tight early in the game. Garfield played really well, and it's a typical rivalry game.
"Our kids know a lot about the history of Windham basketball and they wanted to go out in the last year in the PTC with a perfect record, so they are excited," Hill said.
Four Windham players reached double figures, with Matt Knight leading the way with 21 points. Cameron Pozsgai hit for 15, while Jared Taylor and Parker Rickey each chipped in with 10.
A tense moment came at the 4:03 mark of the third quarter when Pozsgai went down with an apparent knee injury. He did return to the game later, and the injury does not appear to be serious. He also led the team on the boards with seven rebounds.
The two teams exchanged leads twice and were tied four times in the opening five minutes of the game. Rickey hit the first 3-pointer of the contest for Windham at the three-minute mark to lock the score at 13-13. The Bombers then closed out the first quarter on a 9-3 run for a 22-16 advantage at the first stop. Knight scored the final six points of the quarter, working his magic by driving in the paint. His final two baskets came on assists from Taylor.
Jake Viebranz came off the bench in the second quarter and hit a jumper off the glass and a pair of free throws to push the Windham lead to nine points, the biggest lead of the first half. However, Garfield's Matt Pratt fired up consecutive 3s, and Fred Maxey scored in the paint to cut the lead to only two points at 29-27 with three minutes remaining in the first half.
Again, the Bombers closed out the quarter in a flourish with an 11-4 spurt for a 40-31 lead at halftime. Knight hit a 3 and drove in the paint again, while Taylor hit four straight foul shots for the offensive spark.
"Jake did a nice job as a senior in his last home game, and Jared is just an unsung hero every week," added Hill. "I also thought Stephen (Kacenski) did a good job when Cameron went out. You can say what you want about us being favored early, but it's still a lot of stress and pressure on these guys. We seem to always get the other team's best game."
Garfield opened the second half by scoring seven straight points to cut the deficit to only 40-38 with 5:41 left on the clock. The spurt forced Hill to call a timeout, and his team responded immediately by scoring the next eight points for a 50-38 lead. However, the G-Men came right back by scoring nine straight and cut the lead to 50-47. Windham led after three quarters 52-47.
Taylor, Rickey and Knight turned up the heat with the Bombers' trapping press, and converted turnovers into points.
"It all comes back to the turnovers," said Garfield coach Andy Olesky. "That was the story of the night, we killed ourselves with turnovers. We have to get ready to play Monday night because we have Campbell Memorial to start our tournaments."
Fred Maxey had 22 points for Garfield, while Pratt scored 14. Tyler Covey led Garfield rebounders with seven boards.