The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

February 22, 2014

Boys basketball: Southern Columbia defeats top-seeded East Juniata

COCOLAMUS — On Saturday afternoon, the Southern Columbia boys basketball team was to provide a speed bump for East Juniata, to play the proverbial wrestling jobber for East Juniata as they moved into the main event of next week’s District 4 Class AA semifinals undefeated.

And for the first 12 minutes, Southern Columbia was playing its role perfectly.

However, a late second-quarter run got Southern Columbia the lead at the break. That turned the quarterfinal into a heavyweight brawl as the teams exchanged blows to the bitter end.

Southern Columbia looked like it had the final shot, building a nine-point lead with two minutes left, but East Juniata rallied to send the game into overtime.

In the first overtime, East Juniata’s all-time leading scorer Nick Lorenz and the Tigers led until Jake Sankey’s 3-pointer with three seconds left tied the game, sending it into double overtime.

Finally in the end, Luke Rarig had two late buckets inside and Mike Klebon’s layup with four seconds left sealed Southern Columbia’s upset of top-seeded East Juniata 65-62.

Southern Columbia improves to 13-11 on the season and will face Lewisburg, a 64-47 winner over Wellsboro, in the District 4 Class AA semifinals next week. Southern Columbia lost twice this season to Lewisburg.

East Juniata finishes its season at 22-1.

“There aren’t words to describe this feeling — losing on your home floor with your co-captain fouling out early,” East Juniata coach Brock Anders said. “All the adversity seemed to be against (our kids), but they kept battling and battling. I’m proud and I told them they should be proud too. They accomplished a lot this season.”

Southern Columbia’s plan was apparent from the outset — not to let Lorenz and 6-foot-6 Bailey Coder beat them. Southern coach Joe Britto played Coder in practice, while assistant Brad Moyer, a former Shikellamy guard, played Lorenz. That work seemed to help Southern Columbia’s Luke Rarig deal with Coder inside during the game.

“The last two days we’ve been practicing on their main two guys. I’d play Coder and my assistant would be Lorenz,” Britto said. “I would do my best to give (Rarig) the business in practice. Luke didn’t let me go where I wanted (on the court), so I didn’t think he’d let (Coder) either.”

Coder had nine points and 17 rebounds, but just one on the offensive end, while Rarig finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.

Lorenz tied the game at 39-39 early in the fourth quarter with two foul shots, but Southern Columbia scored the next nine points on Rarig’s bucket with 2:24 left in the game.

Lorenz answered with pull up 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions for East Juniata to bring them within 48-45 with 2:08 left.

Walker Palacz made two foul shots to push the lead back to five for Southern Columbia, but those would be the last points Southern Columbia would score in regulation. Southern missed four foul shots and Coder made a great block on what appeared to be a wide-open layup in the final 1:18.

Meanwhile, it still looked like Southern would hold on. Sankey hit a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left, but when Coder’s long jumper with three seconds left hit the front of the rim, it appeared Southern had survived. However, no one boxed out Jeremy Pannebaker, whose putback fell through at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.

After finding Coder for an early bucket in overtime, Lorenz fouled out with 3:09 left in the first overtime. With East Juniata leading by two points, Mike Klebon canned a 3 to give Southern Columbia a 55-54 lead with 1:40 left before Palacz hit two foul shots with 46 seconds left to push the lead to three.

East Juniata tied the score with three seconds left when Sankey hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

“I think our role players have an expectation (to contribute) and we’ve been working hard with them just for situations like this,” Anders said. “As their coach, I expect them to make those plays. I was so proud with how they executed those plays at the end to get us into the first and second overtime.”

“That (stuff) takes the air out of you,” Britto said. “I know as a coach it does, so I’m sure it’s harder on the kids. I just told them to forget about it. Lorenz fouling out really helped a lot. If that wouldn’t have happened, it certainly would have made it tougher.”

East Juniata took its final lead of the game at 60-58 with 2:13 left in the second overtime. Rarig then made back-to-back buckets inside to give the Tigers a 62-60 lead, before a Palacz foul shot made it 63-60 with 11 seconds left.

Southern Columbia fouled David Brantley in the backcourt with eight seconds lefts, which cut the lead to 63-62 before Klebon’s layup against pressure sealed it.

Klebon led four Southern Columbia players in double figures with 19 points. Klebon had a team-high 10 rebounds and chipped in four assists. Rarig and Mostick each finished with 14 points and nine boards, while Palacz chipped in 11.

Lorenz was the long East Juniata player in double figures with 26 points.

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