Timely free throws helped the Beech Buccaneers (32-1) dash Ravenwood’s (23-11) hopes of state competition Monday night as the Raptors fell 54-49 in the sectional round at Ravenwood High School.  
“We won the dog fight even when they cut it to three,” said Beech head coach Kip Brown. “Our guys showed toughness and just enough poise to knock down the free throws to get it done.”
“Heck of a game,” said Ravenwood head coach Patrick Whitlock. “Beech is 32-1 for a reason. Number one in the state the majority of the year. When we got down 10, I think everybody in the gym wanted to count us out, and we made one last run. That just speaks to the character and adversity we faced all year. They never quit and have always battled.”
In the first quarter, Ravenwood traded baskets with Beech until the Raptors grabbed an 11-10 lead on a bucket by senior DJ Starr.
The Buccaneers answered in the second quarter with jumpers and layups by seniors Tyler Moore, Eli Rice, Andrew Paige, and Kristian Shaw to take the advantage 24-22 at the break.
In the third quarter, Beech got on a roll with three pointers, mid-range shots, and points in the paint by Rice, Paige, Shaw, Moore, and senior Braden Brinkley stretching their lead to 42-29.
Ravenwood rallied in the fourth quarter as the quartet of seniors Lee Mollette, Jake Mulder, Andrew Lamuno, and Starr cut the Buccaneers lead to 52-49 with 9.1 seconds remaining. However, Beech answered at the free throw line, sinking two baskets to maintain their margin 54-49. The Raptors had a three-point shot at the buzzer, but could not get it to fall. The Buccaneers sealed the victory, advancing to state 54-49.
“This is definitely a learning experience,” said Lamuno. “It hurts right now, but I am going to move forward.”
“Nothing last forever, and I am going to miss all the guys,” said Mulder.
“I am just taking it in as slow as I can,” said Starr. “I love that I can come in and bond with a certain group of guys; they made my senior year so special.”   
Ravenwood had three players in double figures: Lamuno with 18 points, Starr with 11, and Mulder with 10.
“They are winners,” said Coach Whitlock. “We have been a by-committee team all year long and have had different guys step up. Tonight it was Andrew. A lot of times it has been Jake, other times it has been DJ. Matt Williams has also had some big games.”
“That balance helps get our offense going,” said Lamuno. “We try to drive the gaps or create for other people. If you got a lane then take a lane. We wanted to make layups and get them in foul trouble.”
“Everybody has to put in their part,” said Mulder. “We just decided that we were going to play together and that is the way we were going to win.”
Beech had four players in double figures: Moore and Shaw each with 13 points and Paige and Rice with 10 points.
Ravenwood ended their season at 23-11, but accomplished winning their school’s first region championship and the most wins in school history for a boys basketball season.
“It means a lot being able to come in my first year make history and do amazing things with this group of guys,” said Starr. “I am glad I had this group of people around me and this community showing me love all the time. Coach Whitlock is a special coach.”
“I am just going to remember the brotherhood and camaraderie we had,” said Mulder.
“I am going to miss the team dinners,” said Lamuno. “We are a family. I am going to love seeing our 2021-2022 banner up there. We were confident that we could make history. It is just something I could not imagine doing without these guys.”
Beech will move on to play Bartlett next Wednesday in the 4A state tournament.