By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
MONTOURSVILLE -- Sam Allen's game-tying putback helped Lewisburg go to the final quarter with a little bit of momentum against undefeated St. John Neumann.
But rebounding highlights were few and far between without big man Will Sigl -- out with an illness -- and the Green Dragons lost their shooting touch.
All that combined to hurt Lewisburg in the Heartland Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals on Friday at Montoursville H.S., as the Golden Knights pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 45-37 win.
HAC-III champion Neumann faces HAC-II winner Loyalsock 7:30 today at Williamsport High for the tournament title.
"I told them it's all about your defensive intensity; our offense would take care of itself. We didn't play exceptional offense, but it all comes down to defense," St. John Neumann coach Paul Petcavage said. "Your offense comes and goes, but your defense is always there."
A big part of that defensive effort for Neumann (23-0) came from boxing out and preventing Lewisburg from grabbing offensive rebounds. The Green Dragons (18-3) pulled just five offensive rebounds and the Knights held a 36-17 advantage on the glass.
Jesse Flannery led Lewisburg with nine points, while both Matt Fedorjaka and Sam Allen had eight. Nic Costagliola had a team-high seven rebounds.
Neumann's Alize Johnson proved tough to slow down, as he posted a double-double by halftime, and ended his day with game-highs of 19 points and 20 rebounds, to go with four assists, a steal and a block.
"I thought we defended him pretty well (because) he had to earn everything he got," Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. "They were able to take advantage of some of their athleticism and basketball ability.
"(I'm) proud of the guys. They just battled their hearts out and they left it all out on the floor and, unfortunately, we came out on the short end."
After tying it at 30 on Allen's putback, Lewisburg continued to hang around with the Knights in the fourth quarter despite a drought of nearly five minutes between the third and fourth. Lewisburg cut its deficit to one and two points midway through the fourth, but never led in the second half. The two squads exchanged leads six times in the first half.
Lewisburg led by as many as three twice in the first half before Neumann reclaimed the lead for good late in the second quarter.
n Loyalsock 64, Shamokin 48
MONTOURSVILLE -- Shamokin knew it would be in for a challenge against the state's No. 2 Class AA team, but the Indians have faced tough opponents before and they didn't back down from the challenge.
In a minute span late in the third quarter, Shamokin (20-3) used a 6-0 scoring spurt to tie Loyalsock at 40-all. But the Lancers (20-1) got a huge boost from Omar Little, who stole the show with a career-high 35 points.
Kyle Datres dished 11 assists and Loyalsock used a 24-8 fourth quarter to defeat the Indians and advance to the HAC tournament final.
"I'm not sure the score was really indicative of the game," Shamokin coach Chris Zimmerman said. "(Loyalsock's) tough. ... When it came down to making plays and in money time, they made the plays, and we were a little bit short, but I loved my guys' effort. They fought until the end."
Jake Weaver led the Indians with 14 points, while Josh Pappas posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Shamokin's only lead came early in the first quarter, but the Indians kept the game within reach until late in the fourth quarter.
The Indians carved a nine-point second-quarter deficit to just two to go into the half before a solid third quarter allowed Shamokin to tie it.