The Daily Item
About two weeks ago I was on a local ESPN radio show to discuss boys basketball since I’m the beat writer here at The Daily Item.
While on the show I was asked about both Lewisburg and Loyalsock, and who would win a matchup between them since their first game was coming up.
Honestly, I had no idea who to pick.
Loyalsock is consistently good year in and year out thanks to Ron Insinger’s coaching, and they have an extremely talented team with Kyle Datres and Roger Wilson, among others.
Lewisburg is one of the best teams in Division-II of the Heartland Athletic Conference and all of District 4. So I was leaning towards Lewisburg a bit.
Well, I got my answer on Tuesday as to which team would win: Loyalsock.
Guess my gut was wrong with that one.
I’ve seen Lewisburg (10-1, 4-1) play a handful of games so far this year and they’re a very solid all-around team. I watched Loyalsock (9-2, 5-0) face Shikellamy earlier this season and Wilson was a huge force for the Lancers that night and he was Tuesday with a team-high 24 points.
What cost Lewisburg on Tuesday at Loyalsock was a seven-point third quarter; the Lancers countered with 22 to take a 50-32 lead.
Going into the half, the Green Dragons were down only three points, 18-15. From trailing by three to trailing by 18 in a matter of just eight minutes can get a lot of teams to hang their heads and give up, but anyone that’s seen the Green Dragons know that’s not how they play.
Instead, Lewisburg responded with a 23-point fourth quarter to make a valiant comeback, falling short by just nine points. Twice the Dragons cut that deficit down to seven.
Earlier this season after beating Troy, I asked Lewisburg coach John Vaji how great it is that it seems anyone on his team can seem to step up on any given night, and he said it was a nice luxury to have and hopefully it stayed that way throughout the season.
Tuesday’s loss was another example of that.
Any area basketball fan knows how great of a player Travis Conrad is. The senior — who was a selected to The Daily Item Preseason All-Star team this year — is one of the top scorers in the area in total points (188) and points per game (17.1). On Tuesday, the Lancers held Conrad to just nine. Instead, it was Erich Kline who stepped up for Lewisburg, scoring a team-high 22 points and pulling nine boards while Sam Allen added 10 points.
The HAC-II title the past two years has gone to either the Lancers or Green Dragons, and there’s no reason to think one of them won’t win it again this year.
Tuesday’s loss was the first time the road team failed to win in the teams’ past seven matchups, and it sets up a huge rematch Feb. 9 at Lewisburg. You know the Green Dragons will want to avenge that loss on their home court.
Danville proved how good it was on Tuesday night, as well. While the Green Dragons and Lancers played for HAC-II dominance, Danville separated itself from Shikellamy in the HAC-I race with a 51-27 rout of the Braves.
Shikellamy (6-6, 4-2) actually tied the game at 21-all midway through the third quarter after trailing by as many as seven in the first half. But the Ironmen’s offense lit up and outscored the Braves 30-6 down the stretch, ending the game on a 13-0 run and holding Shikellamy to just three fourth-quarter points.
Danville (9-2, 6-0) seems to be the type of program that, despite annual losses to graduation, keeps churning out successful teams.
Danville lost talented all-state selection Andrew Andreychik to graduation last year, but looking at the team this season you wouldn’t really guess they lost such a pivotal piece.
“With Danville, we seem to always have athletes, just reloading every year,” Danville senior guard Bret Berg said after Tuesday’s win against Shikellamy. “Not only Andrew, but we replaced Ross (Litz) and Dave (Vitunac) rebounding (wise) with Scotty (Heeter) and (Robbie) Koons and they’re doing a great job. Koz (Zach Kozick) is doing a great job running the place where Andrew was and we’re just pretty much picking up where we left off (last season).”
Danville last year rattled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins as it claimed the District 4 Class AAA title, 62-36, over Shikellamy. The Ironmen lost in the second round of the PIAA tournament to Holy Ghost Prep, and while it’s still too early to see how this Danville squad will stack up to last season, Danville is clicking and playing together as a unit.
The success is also in large part thanks to the talent that Danville has.
“(I’m) not really surprised (with the success); I thought we had a core group that was pretty good coming back,” Ironmen coach Lenny Smith said. “We’re still trying to develop the bench a little bit. If we can get the bench going — and we have some capable players on the bench — it’ll be pretty nice.”
n Jon Gerardi covers boys basketball for The Daily Item. Email comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Jonidial.