---- — By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
CATAWISSA -- Having seen Southern Columbia play just a few days ago against South Williamsport, Lewisburg coach John Vaji was aware what a talented team the Tigers have this season. Vaji and his Green Dragons knew that if they didn't play solid defense, Southern was going to take advantage.
While the Tigers hung with the third best team in the state in Class AA on Wednesday evening at Southern Columbia High School to start the game, it was a superb defensive outing in the second quarter that helped put the game away for Lewisburg.
The Green Dragons allowed just one Southern basket from the floor in the second quarter en route to building a double-digit lead and never looked back, cruising to a 62-34 Heartland Athletic Conference Division II win.
Lewisburg (19-2, 10-2 HAC-II) used an 11-0 run in the first quarter to go up 13-2 on the Tigers (11-10, 7-5) before Southern Columbia coach Joey Britto called a timeout to relax his team.
Following the quick timeout, Southern Columbia worked hard to get back into it, and trailed by just six, 17-11, going into the second quarter.
A large part of that surge was the work of Mike Klebon, who scored six of the eight points in the first quarter after the timeout, and ended the night as the only Tiger in double-figures with a game-high 17 points and three steals.
"Klebon's a very good offensive ball player," Vaji said. "He had to earn everything he got. He did a nice job on other guys, so whenever he did give up the ball, we were able to close out and contest their shots.
"We respected everybody on the team out there and got out and did what we had to do defensively."
Lewisburg got 15 points from Jesse Flannery, including six boards and three assists, while Sam Allen added 13 points, six boards, four assists and two steals; Will Sigl scored 10 with eight boards.
Nadir Boone came off the bench to score eight points while also grabbing six boards.
By night's end, Lewisburg held a 40-19 rebounding advantage, and only gave up five offensive rebounds to Southern Columbia -- only two in the second half -- effectively eliminating any second-chance opportunities.
"My message is just box out best you can, try to get big guys out and (the) other guys beat us on the boards," Britto said.
The Green Dragons took a 12-point lead into the half and led by 20 when Boone put together a string of seven straight points himself to lead 47-23 late in the third quarter. The Green Dragons held a brief 30-point lead late in the fourth quarter as well.
The closest Southern Columbia cut the deficit in the second half was when Klebon hit a trey with 3:40 to play to make it a 35-23 game. By the time the Tigers scored again from a Klebon free throw, they trailed by 25.
The Green Dragons earned a spot in the HAC Tournament on Friday evening and will face the undefeated St. John Neumann Knights (22-0) at 7:30 at Montoursville High School.