The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports Columns

February 8, 2012

They learn to be tough young

It's difficult to recall exactly how the sequence unfolded because it happened so darn fast.

Shikellamy made a couple baskets, and the crowd began to stir. It was still anybody's game, and the Braves had some momentum late in the third quarter of a recent run with Danville.

That's where things blurred in a series of turnovers and transition buckets and bodies on the floor. Danville's defense thoroughly killed the suspense faster than a "To be continued ..." screen, and the Ironmen walked off the Shikellamy Field House court with a 20-point win.

A few minutes later, a beat thumped over the PA system for the start of varsity warm-ups.

You want to know how the Ironmen are once again in contention for the Heartland Athletic Conference Division I championship? Watch their junior varsity team play defense.

The girls clearly understand the importance of defending the ball, how aggressive play can generate offense, and how a two-possession game can suddenly become a blowout.

You see that kind of all-out effort at 6 o'clock and it makes sense why -- having come through the program with the same focus -- the varsity is so successful, despite some (literal) shortcomings.

"We rely so much on our defense that we honestly feel we can keep ourselves in ball games by playing good defense," said Danville coach Steve Moser. "We pride ourselves in our defense."

The Ironmen were a contender in last season's HAC-I race until about this point, losing three of their last four to place fourth. It was to be expected from an "under 6-foot" team, as Moser affectionately called it, in a division with size.

Then the Ironmen shocked unbeaten HAC-I champion Shamokin in the district semifinals, one last salvo by a smoke-and-mirrors club. They lost the district final to Milton on a final-seconds bucket, and called it a season with a first-round state playoff loss.

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