By Jon Gerardi
After making two free throws off a technical foul and retaining possession, it looked like momentum shifting its way back to Shikellamy with a couple of minutes to play Monday against Lewisburg.
The Braves, staring at a 14-point deficit earlier in the quarter after trailing by as many 17 in the third, had it down to a reasonable eight points.
Shikellamy passed it around a few times before launching up a 3-pointer that missed. Lewisburg grabbed the rebound and held on down the stretch with a 49-35 win at the Shikellamy Field House in a Heartland Athletic Conference crossover game.
The Braves (1-1) made the game interesting late in the fourth, but it was too little, too late. The Green Dragons (1-0) took advantage early of a four-point Braves’ second quarter, going into the half up 22-12.
“We just played too poorly to start the game. Defensively, we played well enough to win the game, offensively we just have a lot of work to do right now,” Shikellamy coach Tim Foor said. “We weren’t pacing our sets. There’s a number of things we can point out, but hopefully we correct those and move on.”
Lewisburg never once allowed Shikellamy to lead, starting the game with a trey from Travis Conrad and continually increasing its lead from there. The senior guard was pivotal for Lewisburg in its season-opener, scoring a team-high 24 points, including 15 of Lewisburg’s first 17.
“He’s key because he makes a lot of things happen. He can shoot from the perimeter, he can take it to the hole and then (if) they get a little too content, he has the ability to make the extra pass and get other guys open looks,” Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. “He was key and I was very proud of the guys when he sat on the bench (in the third quarter). We didn’t lose anything.”
Conrad was taken out of the game early in the third quarter after picking up his third foul, taking the Green Dragons’ best offensive weapon out of the game. But even without Conrad, Lewisburg continued to build the lead to as large as 17 as the fourth quarter started. Nick Costagliola led the bench with six points. Starter Mike Driscoll added 15.
Lewisburg’s defense played just as solid as its defense, forcing tough shots and not giving Shikellamy any easy looks inside. Lewisburg grabbed down 26 boards, 19 of which were defensive. Erich Kline grabbed seven boards while Costagliola had six.
“We were working on cutting down penetration and rebounding a lot from last year,” Conrad said. “So we tweaked some of the stuff from our defense and it’s really worked out nicely so far.”
The Braves were led by both 6-foot-5 senior Taylor Mantz and C.J. Tyler, who each scored nine points.
“I thought defensively we played well enough a game, we just missed too many shots and we forced a lot of shots in the first quarter which I think helped get them to that 10-point lead (early),” said Foor.
Shikellamy could have cut the deficit to five early in the fourth quarter when Tyler made a layup, but as the ball bounced around the rim, Mantz jumped up to tip it in but touched the rim instead, negating the basket.