By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Hulbert's heroics lift Comets
Times photo: Adam Krebs Albanys Bryce Hulbert, who recorded a double-double, pulls down one of his 12 rebounds against Orangeville in the fourth quarter of Mondays game.
ORANGEVILLE, Ill. - Ever since Albany's bench thinned out, each one of the Comets' opponents game plans has been to stop senior forward Bryce Hulbert.

Sometimes he just cannot be stopped.

Hulbert scored 19 points and 12 rebounds, including the game-winning putback with 9.9 seconds left to lift Albany to a 39-38 non-conference win over Orangeville, Ill., Monday in one of several area "Border Battles."

"Ultimately it comes down to the big guy, and Bryce made those plays he needed to make, especially the one at the end," Comets head coach Derik Doescher said. "It's a good win for us, especially on the road."

Albany got the ball back with under 40 seconds left in the game. The Broncos kept the Comets guards from getting the ball to Brice in the paint, so Tyler Conley tried to drive to the hoop for a layup. Conley's shot went hard, but Hulbert was left alone for the rebound and the putback to give Albany the final score of the game. Orangeville called a timeout with 4.7 seconds left, but a 3-pointer by Steve Bass missed at the buzzer.

"It felt great to come out and get that win. Usually we come out flat to start but we went hard from the get-go," Hulbert said. "I was just glad to get the team the win."

Doescher was hoping to set something up for Bryce, he said.

"It was a physical game and Bryce is a physical player, so I thought if anything there is a chance he gets fouled on a hook and can get to the line," Doescher said.

"Ultimately, Tyler Conley did the senior thing and took the ball to the hoop. I told him this won't show up in the books, but if he's not willing to take that shot, Bryce never gets that board."

Hulbert scored from the floor twice in each quarter and added three free throws.

Albany led six different times in the contest, but none by more than five points. In fact, each team had its share of runs and Orangeville's biggest lead was six.

"It says a lot about us," Doescher said of his team's ability to come out on top despite being down. "To most teams that's minor - four or six points. But to us, because we don't score a ton, four to six points is more like 10-12 points when the other team can score in a hurry. We never quit. We knew we had to get stops and defend and we did."

Orangeville used a 9-0 run to cover most of the first quarter, but a late 8-0 run by Albany gave the Comets an 11-9 lead after one. In the second, neither team could get much offense going, but it was the Broncos who hit the net most often, taking a 19-15 lead into the half.

"At times we executed well," Doescher said. "We played hard and made plays down the stretch. We didn't shoot free throws well again (6-for-12), but we battled and found a way to win."

In the second half, Albany tightened up its offense, turning the ball over just four times over the final 16 minutes.

One by one, different Comets players stepped up when called upon. Josh Krueger scored all nine of his points in the second half, including a drive to the hole to open up the fourth quarter and give the Ponies a 31-30 lead and another lay-in from underneath to increase the lead to 34-29.

"We come in knowing that teams are going to be keying on Bryce. We need guys to step up and I think Josh Krueger did that in the fourth quarter," Doescher said. "The baskets he had, and the timing of those baskets, were huge."

Albany (6-11, 3-4 Six Rivers East) has struggled at times this year, including losing on a shot at the buzzer by Black Hawk - a team Orangeville beat in mid-January. The Comets are hoping an exciting win like this brings momentum for the rest of the season.

"Last year we had a lot of seniors and a lot of expectations. We were sitting 4-10 and won seven out of eight down the stretch. It transformed our season," Doescher said. "As long as you have games to play, you never know. There is always a chance you can go on a run."

Hulbert thinks the win increases confidence heading into Thursday's matchup at home against Pecatonica (8-7, 4-2).

"(This win is) getting us ready for Pec. We're going to get at it tomorrow in practice so we can play hard and get one against Pec," Hulbert said.