By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
Even with a gym full of fans screaming at the East Juniata players to start fouling Greenwood, the Tigers were just hoping to get the Wildcats into some situations where they could get a steal or turnover.
As the final two minutes slowly ticked away, that strategy didn’t work out as planned and Greenwood kept hold of the ball and milked down the clock.
The Wildcats put a damper on a Tigers comeback, defeating East Juniata, 58-48, on Thursday night at Greenwood High School in a big Tri-Valley League game for sole possession of first place.
East Juniata (8-2, 4-1 TVL) slowly cut down a deficit from 13 points in the second quarter to four in the third when Bailey Coder (18 points, six rebounds) scored 25 seconds into the half to make it a 28-24 game.
However the Wildcats (8-2, 4-0 TVL) picked it back up and increased their lead back to double digits, and led by as many as 15 late in the third.
“They hit a couple shots and we maybe took a little ill advised shot in there, but at some point you just have to buckle down and put some stops together,” Greenwood coach Kent Houser said.
Greenwood struggled making shots in the second quarter after putting together a 24-point performance in the first. The Wildcats’ Josh Ferguson (17 points, four rebounds) made a layup with 7:33 before halftime. That would be the only basket from the floor Greenwood scored in the second quarter and the Wildcats went 6 minutes, 11 seconds before Josh Noll hit two free throws.
During that span, Coder and Nick Lorenz (20 points, six rebounds) helped cut down Greenwood’s lead.
“They’re our go-to guys. Bailey can play inside (and) out, he’s a good interior post player and Nick can obviously drive the basketball and he can also shoot,” East Juniata coach Brock Anders said. “So it makes a lot of things easy for us to be able to do some (things) offensively.”
Greenwood successfully spread the ball around as Ryan Kerstetter (18 points, seven rebounds), Ferguson and Tyler Fegley (12) all scored in double figures.
“Early we were really aggressive and really looking for our shots and iin the second period we quit doing that and that’s one of the things we talked about a halftime: staying aggressive and looking to shoot,” Houser said. “I thought Tyler came out and made some real nice plays in the second half along with Josh and Ryan.”
Six of Greenwood’s nine players that got minutes scored points. Unfortunatly for East Juniata, no one seemed to be able to successfully make a basket other than Coder and Lorenz, who scored all of the Tigers points through the first 24 minutes, 50 seconds of the game before Jeremy Pannebaker sank a trey with 7:10 to play to make it a nine-point game.
“Those guys play hard, they shoot the ball well, they share the ball, they’re well coached,” Anders said. “We understand the uphill battle and trying to play them every night and this is what our guys get up for and we understand that we’ve got to get better in order to beat them.”
The Tigers held a brief lead twice in the first quarter before Greenwood put together a run of four consecutive treys to bury East Juniata with a 12-3 run. “They made a quick switch to zone and when they did, we got the ball into the right places and got guys open and that kind of got us going and got some numbers up, go up ahead and gave us some breathing room for the rest of the game,” Houser said.