---- — By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
SUNBURY -- Feliph Taylor hit one of two shots from the line to pull Shamokin within four points in the final minute of the third quarter. With a packed, boisterous crowd inside the Shikellamy Fieldhouse, it seemed that maybe -- after trailing by 11 points to start the quarter -- the Indians were going to get a momentum shift.
But that hope was dashed when Wilkes-Barre GAR's James Holmes thrust a 3-point dagger at them.
Holmes' trey made it a seven-point game to start the fourth quarter, and while the Indians kept it within single digits for a good portion of the remainder of the game, they just couldn't get close enough to reclaim a lead.
Shamokin fell in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament, 61-49, to the Grenadiers inside Phil Lockcuff Gymnasium on Friday.
"Bottom line (is) they have a bunch of good players. (Isaiah) Francis is an animal. We just didn't have an answer for him. Not only with him scoring, but he was finding the Holmes kid a couple times when we get off the help and he'd hit a couple big threes," Shamokin coach Chris Zimmerman said. "Cut it to (four) twice (in third) and he hit two threes to stretch it back up to six, stretch it to seven. Just couldn't get over that hump. We gave it everything we had. Our guys have played so hard."
All year Shamokin (22-4) played without being in awe or intimidated by an opponent, and the same was true Friday.
The Indians and Grenadiers (21-6) went back and forth throughout the first half, exchanging leads a total of eight times before halftime. Shamokin held a five-point lead halfway through the first quarter (10-5) before GAR battled back, going ahead with 6:50 to play when Francis (25 points) nailed a shot. Once GAR took the lead, it didn't relent, leading by as many as 10 twice in the second.
"I think they fed off the energy in the building. It was a great crowd (and) great support. For starting three sophomores in particular in the backcourt, they certainly didn't look like they were nervous or jittery at all, so that was a good thing," Zimmerman said. "We did get off to a good start, just got a little cold there. Little cold spell."
One of those sophomore was Jake Weaver who proved to be a pivotal piece to Shamokin's offense in the second half, helping the Indians cut the deficit to seven points twice, scoring two straight baskets in an eight-second span to make it 54-47 and 56-49.
Weaver had nine of Shamokin's 13 fourth-quarter points, and ended the night with 19 points, six boards, three assists and two steals. The sophomore also knocked down a huge trey early in the third quarter to get Shamokin back within single-digits.
"Jake's a competitor, first and foremost. We talk about it as coaches, and when I played, sometimes you hate to lose more than you like to win," Zimmerman said. "A lot of our guys have that attribute, but I think Jake has it more so than anybody."
Shamokin got a double-double from senior Austin Stine with 10 points and a team-high 11 rebounds in his final game.
In addition to Francis' 25 points, GAR got big nights from Holmes (11) and Jahil Harvey, who added 15 points. The Grenadiers also held a 36-29 rebound advantage, limiting Shamokin to just seven offensive boards.
"Give them credit. They did some stuff, but I think we got a little bit too much in panic mode," Zimmerman said. "We were in too much of a hurry sometimes on offense instead of being patient and running our stuff through."