---- — By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG -- Fans were treated to an early holiday gift with overtime basketball as Selinsgrove defeated Mifflinburg, 55-45 on Friday in Heartland Athletic Conference Division I action.
"Any win is a nice win," Selinsgrove head coach Ray Moyer said. "I just got done telling the kids, 'we made our foul shots down the stretch,' and when you're in a tight game and you can make foul shots. That's how we got the lead."
The Seals seemed destined to come away with a tight win in regulation, leading 40-37 with less than a minute remaining before a freshman guard came to the rescue for the Wildcats.
James Zack fired a shot from the right side, needing a 3-pointer and the backboard was kind, tying the game at 40 with four seconds remaining and sending the crowd into a frenzy. The Seals' David Aurand raced upcourt with only ticks remaining to try and win the game, but missed a shot in the lane as time expired.
"I was trying to foul," Moyer said. "I said, 'When it gets a little bit under 10 (seconds), go out and foul him, and we didn't catch him in time."
"Time was running down and we needed to be attacking at that point," Mifflinburg head coach Andre' Roupp said. "It just so happened that James found himself open, and we found the open guy and he drained it."
In overtime, the Seals were able to take control of a defensive showdown by grabbing a quick lead in the extra session and salting the game away with key free throws down the stretch. A pair of baskets from Aurand gave the Seals a five-point lead, 45-40, forcing the Wildcats to start to foul to extend the game.
Moyer said he was pleased with the shot selection of his team and that the Seals were able to run their offense well.
The two scores from Aurand came after Dillon Hoke picked up his fifth foul at the 2:42 mark in overtime, leaving the Seals to hang on without a player is averaging nearly 16 points per game this season.
The Seals did just that, rallying around the senior. Aurand finished the game with 23 points, but also played a large role on defense, setting up shop in passing lanes to deny the Wildcats easy looks at the rim.
"He played like a senior captain," Moyer said. "David was huge in the overtime there when Dillon (Hoke) fouled out. He stepped up and just played fantastic for us."
With the crowd trying their best to support the home Wildcats and spur another comeback, the Seals calmly knocked down free throw after free throw to put the game out of reach.
Early on, the game was a defensive struggle as both teams looked to find their rhythm offensively against swarming defenses. The Wildcats jumped out to a 10-2 lead, pushing the ball inside for close shots.
However, Aurand quickly went to work erasing the lead, attacking the rim offensively after swatting the ball away on defense. The result was a complete momentum shift for the Seals and a 12-0 run to close out the first quarter.
Throughout the game, the Wildcats were not afraid to hoist up 3-pointers if there were open looks, and the long-range threat kept the game close into halftime with the Seals clinging to a two-point lead, 26-24.
In the third quarter, the tough defense on both sides made a return early and often as both teams combined for seven points as clean looks and offensive rebounds were at a premium.