By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT -- Lewisburg's Jesse Flannery got the ball just outside the arc and drove inside for a layup with five seconds to play Tuesday.
Lewisburg's fans and bench couldn't hide their excitement. For a moment, it looked as though the Green Dragons would get the monkey off their backs by defeating Loyalsock, which beat Lewisburg four times last season.
After Loyalsock took a timeout with 2.3 seconds remaining, Kyle Datres inbounded a pass to Omar Little, who quickly turned from just outside the paint and banked in a perfect shot that was well-contested by a Lewisburg defender.
The home crowd inside Ron "CI" Insinger Gymnasium erupted with cheers as the buzzer sounded on the Lancers' 53-52 win and the Loyalsock student section stormed the court to swarm Little.
Little's dagger ended an exciting Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II game between two of the state's Top 5 Class AA teams. It's the fifth loss to Loyalsock in the past two years for Lewisburg.
"This is one of those (games where) it's a shame to see either team lose. Omar made a great shot; Jess made a great drive to give us a lead," Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. "It's just two heavyweights throwing punches and unfortunately, their last punch landed with the buzzer. If there could've been another 10 seconds, who knows. We may have had the game-winning punch."
The Green Dragons (11-1, 5-1 HAC-II) led by three twice late in the fourth quarter. After Flannery hit a shot with one minute to go, Datres responded with a huge three for Loyalsock (9-1, 6-0 HAC-II) to tie it at 49-all.
Datres came up big for Loyalsock again shortly thereafter, sinking two free throws for a 51-50 edge, before Flannery's drive reclaimed the lead.
After a first quarter that went back and forth, the Green Dragons started to show some dominance, building an impressive 11-point lead against fourth-ranked Loyalsock to begin the second quarter, 23-12.
Loyalsock kept battling, however, and went on a 12-1 run after that to trail by one. Matt Fedorjaka hit a jumper at the buzzer to bump Lewisburg ahead into half, 26-25.
"We got down, which hurt us on the defensive end," Loyalsock coach Ron Insinger said. "Our press did not rattle Lewisburg like we anticipated. They maintained their composure the whole time and we never really got them out of their offense, and that was our goal going into it."
Fifth-ranked Lewisburg held the rebound advantage over Loyalsock, 32-19.
Sam Allen proved to be a force for the Lancers to handle, as the sophomore posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Will Sigl nearly recorded one as well, scoring a team-best 16 points and nine rebounds.
Loyalsock got 15 points from Mike Pastore, while Ben Sosa added 12, in addition to eight rebounds and a team-high four steals. The Lancers had nine steals.
Sosa and Wes LaPoint had back-to-back steals and slam dunks in just a nine-second span to give Loyalsock a 36-32 lead late in the third quarter.
Lewisburg didn't let it rattle them, however. The Green Dragons tied the game with a minute to play in the third when Sigl hit two free throws from a technical to make it 36-all.
Loyalsock's Tommy Baggett made a nice trey at the third-quarter buzzer to put the Lancers back on top, 39-36.
"If there's any silver lining, I think our guys played well in a highly-contested, well-played game," Vaji said.