By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item
COAL TOWNSHIP —
If there was a team ripe for a slow start, it might have been the Lewisburg boys Saturday afternoon in the District 4 Class AA third-place game.
The Green Dragons entered the contest coming off another disappointing loss to Loyalsock in the district semifinals, their fourth loss of the season to the Lancers.
Lewisburg was also without freshman standout Sam Allen, who had a double-double against Loyalsock.
However, there was no letdown for the Green Dragons and they earned their first trip to the PIAA playoffs since 2010.
Lewisburg shot 57 percent through the first three quarters and rolled East Juniata, 71-35, at Shamokin H.S.
“We wanted to run the floor. We wanted to try and get up-and-down on them,” Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. “That got us energized and we were able to get some wide-open looks.”
The Green Dragons (23-4) advance to play District 2 champion Holy Cross (23-5), a 59-45 winner over Meyers, on Saturday at a site and time to be determined. East Juniata finishes the season at 19-6.
With Allen in street clothes on the bench, other Green Dragons played well in their larger roles. Junior Nick Costagliola started in place of Allen and had 10 points and four rebounds.
“I think Nick Costagliola really stepped up in a starting role,” Vaji said. “He did the job offensively and even defensively, because he did a solid job on (East Juniata’s Nick) Lorenz when we put him on him.”
Freshman Will Sigl, who didn’t play in the semifinal, had eight points, four rebounds and two blocks. Sigl also spelled senior Erich Kline at times in defending East Juniata’s 6-foot-6 center Bailey Coder.
“They were able to keep (Coder) off the boards and, with their length, force him to shoot the 12-to-14-footer. We were able to contest his shot,” Vaji said. “It was a solid all-around performance from everyone on the team.”
Lewisburg pushed the ball from the beginning of the game, exactly like Vaji wanted. The Green Dragons had nine points in the first 2 1/2 minutes of the game. Mike Driscoll scored seven consecutive points for Lewisburg as the Green Dragons took an early 9-2 lead.
The Tigers got within 11-9 after a Dillon Leonard 3-pointer midway through the first quarter, but Lewisburg put together a 16-5 run capped by Travis Conrad’s steal and layup early in the second quarter to open a 27-14 lead. Lewisburg opened the game 12-of-19 (63 percent) from the floor.
The Green Dragons extended their lead to 21 points by halftime thanks to a strong defensive second quarter. Lewisburg limited East Juniata to just 1-of-11 shooting from the floor.
Lewisburg took care of any hope the Tigers had of a comeback in the third quarter, posting a 31-point stanza. Conrad had 11 points in the quarter as the game entered the mercy rule.
Conrad led the way for Lewisburg with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Driscoll finished with 14 points; Kline added 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Lorenz led the Tigers with 15 points.