The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

February 25, 2014

Boys basketball: Central downs Danville

COAL TOWNSHIP — Danville coach Lenny Smith likened it to a snowball rolling downhill.

Central Columbia’s Chris Snyder called it “a perfect storm.”

You can attach any catastrophic meteorological metaphor you’d like to the Blue Jays’ first-half run Tuesday — an earth-scorching heat wave, maybe, or town-leveling tornado — and convey the point: Central’s 21-point run was utterly devastating. It was unexpected, sudden, and there was nothing the Ironmen could do about it.

The second-seeded Blue Jays rolled to a 64-48 win over No. 3 Danville in the District 4 Class AAA semifinals at Shamokin High. They bolted to a 20-point lead a little more than a minute into the second quarter and didn’t let the Ironmen closer than 14 the rest of the way.

“I’ve been in a lot of playoff games, and when stuff like that starts going wrong it just seems like it spreads throughout everybody,” Smith said. “You need something good to happen for one or two possessions, and we couldn’t get that.

“I wouldn’t have expected a run like that unless I saw it. ... And I definitely saw it tonight.”

Danville (16-8) lost in the semifinal round for the second consecutive season. Central (17-6), which was 6-16 a year ago, earned a spot in the final opposite top-seeded Shamokin and a berth in the state playoffs.

The Jays, last in a district final three years ago (AA), were routed by Danville, 56-39, less than three weeks earlier.

“Before the game started, we honestly believed we could win,” said Snyder. “(That run) validated what we were trying to do.”

Central’s focus was Danville senior point guard Zack Kozick, who Snyder said was among the best his team had faced. Eli Petersheim and Adam Zaleski did tireless defensive work to keep the ball out of Kozick’s hands, and the result was one Kozick basket on one first-quarter shot (Danville’s first points of the game).

“We were trying to deny Kozick the ball, and we did,” said Snyder. “Because of that, I think, it put them in a really uncomfortable, unfamiliar situation, and we capitalized on it. That was the start of it all.”

“That probably bothered us. We didn’t see that all year,” said Smith. “That was a good game plan, and they ran it well.”

Payton Aucker scored the Jays’ first eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers, to erase Danville’s early 4-3 lead. Joey Eckenrode buried a pair of treys, including a wide-open look from the right corner at the first-quarter horn for a 17-4 lead. That buzzer-beater was the first Central basket on four straight trips; Petersheim capped the run with a trey to make it 24-4 at the 6:10 mark of the second.

The Ironmen were 0-of-9 with two turnovers during the spree. Kozick ultimately ended it with a drive for a three-point play.

“We lost Aucker a couple times and he drained his threes,” said Smith. “They were switching man defenses on us and sagging off, and we were going a little to much one-on-five and forcing some not-good shots.

“They took advantage and we never recovered, obviously, from that first quarter.”

Central center Eric Beaver scored eight of his 19 points in the second period and the Jays led 32-17 at half. Aucker’s third trey of the game capped a 7-2 spurt that pushed the Jays’ lead to 20 early in the third quarter. Aucker matched Beaver with 19.

“Their two bigs dominated us all night long,” said Smith.

Central opened the second half 9-of-12 from the floor to keep its margin in the teens despite Phil Stemm (team-high 16 points) and Kozick (13) each scoring eight for Danville after halftime.

“I thought we played well (in the second half),” said Smith. “There were a couple possessions where we could have used a call or shot to fall, and we didn’t get it. They kept that cushion.”

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