By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
SUNBURY -- Hovering under .500 into the middle of January is not a place the Shikellamy boys basketball team wants to be at this point in the season.
So the Braves were looking for a signature win on Tuesday night in a Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I matchup with defending league champion Danville visiting Phil Lockcuff Gymnasium.
Through the first 12 minutes, it didn't look like that victory was going to come for the Braves as Danville built a double-digit lead.
However, in the second half, Shikellamy's turned up the defense and rallied for the HAC-I victory.
Garrett Kemberling scored the go-ahead bucket with 1:07 left, but Shikellamy, which made just one of four foul shots in the final 30 seconds, forced a missed a shot and two turnovers on last three defensive possessions to notch a 58-55 victory.
"We thought we had a lot of missed opportunities in the first half -- missed layups, missed free throws. We were doing the things we needed to do (in the first half). We weren't finishing the situation," Shikellamy coach Tim Foor said. "It's a good win for us. We fell behind by double digits, but we just chipped away and chipped away."
"They spread us out and tried to take us one-on-one and it got us into some foul trouble," Danville coach Lenny Smith said.
Shikellamy improves to 6-7 overall (4-2 HAC-I), and with four consecutive home games, the Braves have a real shot to get back into the thick of the District 4 Class AAA race.
"This is a good win for us," Foor said, "but we have to put this one behind us and get ready for Jersey Shore on Friday. We still have a lot of work to do."
The Braves struggled early with the Danville offense, especially guard Anthony Renz. He scored 16 first-half points as Danville built a 22-12 lead with 6:24 left in the first half.
Shikellamy rallied to within three at 29-26 when C.J. Tyler missed a layup after a steal, but Kyle Leitzel was there for the putback. Danville appeared to survive the run as Renz scored five points in the final 1:20, and Phil Stemm added a bucket to push the Ironmen lead to 36-29 at halftime.
Danville (5-3, 2-1) would push its lead to nine to open the half, but the Braves scored six consecutive points to cut the lead to 38-35 with six minutes left in the third quarter.
"You can go player-to-player in this locker room and ask them what I think the most important part of the game is and they'll say the first three minutes of the second half," Smith said. "If you get outplayed in that first three minutes it's hard to recover."
The Shikellamy defense in the second half limited Renz to just two points and the Ironmen to just 36 percent, after shooting 58 percent in the first half. Take away Stemm's outstanding half, where he scored 15 of the Ironmen's 19 second-half points and Danville shot just 2-of-15.
"Renz shot the ball very well in the first half and he's been doing that all season," Foor said. "We started rotating a couple of different guys on him in the second half and gave him some different looks."
Danville got the lead back to nine on back-to-back three-point plays by Stemm, but the Braves defense limited the Ironmen to just one field goal over the final 5:13 of the third quarter.
Shikellamy put together six consecutive points over the final 30 seconds of the third quarter, the last two coming on Ryan Kenney's putback at the buzzer to cut the Danville lead to 46-45.
Stemm's bucket with 5:20 left in the game gave Danville a 51-47 lead, but Tyler took advantage of a long rebound for a fast break layup to tie the game at 51 with 4:26 left.
Neither team would lead by more than a bucket and the Braves finally took their first lead since early in the first quarter on two Tyler foul shots with 2:33 left in the game, before Stemm tied the game with 1:55 left.
Kemberling and Austin Mowery were the lone Braves in double figures, each finishing with 12. Six different Shikellamy players scored at least seven points in the victory.
Stemm finished with 20 points and eight rebounds to lead Danville, while Renz finished with 18 points.