By Scott Dudinskie
The Daily Item
SUNBURY -- When the mob of Danville students had all but cleared the court, David Andreychik got to his son and locked him in a bear hug.
The elder Andreychik spoke through a broad smile directly into Andrew's ear, no doubt voicing his pride to the hero of Danville's thrilling 31-30 playoff win over Shamokin.
"He said he was proud of me, and he joked that the score was a little low," Andrew Andreychik recalled. "I think he said, "Thirty-one points? You should be scoring 31!'"
The score of District 4 Class AAA semifinal was especially low because the Indians, victims of 23- and 18-point losses at the hands of the Ironmen during the league season, went all-in on playing deliberate half-court offense. The Indians made the decision a week ago to slow down the game, limit Danville's touches and lay it all on the line defensively.
"Not to take anything away from Danville, but we knew we could guard them in a halfcourt. Our problem has been guarding them in transition," said Shamokin assistant Chris Zimmerman, who took the reigns as longtime mentor Joe Klebon was sidelined by a back ailment. "Kind of jokingly we said, 'We'll play this in the thirties,' but that's what we were looking to do."
The Indians' gamble paid off big, keeping the halftime score in the teens and helping them to a 23-18 lead after three quarters when Danville went more than 11 minutes without a field goal.
Andreychik, though, scored eight points in fewer than 5 minutes of the fourth (two more points than Danville scored in the middle quarters), including a pair of 3-pointers for the lead. He added two foul shots for a 30-27 edge with 52 seconds to go after Shamokin fouled its way to the bonus.
"He was the man," said Danville coach Lenny Smith. "I wouldn't want anybody else in the league, in that situation, but him. He carried this team in the last quarter. He willed this team to win."
The Indians drained all but nine seconds off the clock and then worked an open triple for Kieran Kelley to tie it with 3.8 showing.
"I just couldn't believe it," said Andreychik. "We had the right defense; he just made a good shot."
The Ironmen had a play from under the basket, but Shamokin's Devin Madara knocked the inbound pass away to the deep sideline with 2.9 left.
"That's a horrible spot to be on offense because you can kind of cut the court in half defensively," said Zimmerman. "They made a heads-up play."
Andreychik, who triggered the prior inbound, took a Kyle Gruss pass on a dead sprint in front of the Shamokin bench, across midcourt and was almost past Kelley when the Indian was whistled for a foul. Andreychik's heave was caught by Bret Berg and put in at the buzzer. The foul call stood, and the referees sent Andreychik to the line with 0.3 seconds on the clock.
"I just tried to get focused and picture it as a regular free throw," he said. "The pressure got to me a little bit -- my legs were shaking -- but I thought just do it for the team and the community."
Andreychik, a 63.6 percent shooter from the line, made the first to break the tie and missed the second. Shamokin's Mike Spade rebounded the miss and tried to fire a court-length shot, but Danville's Ross Litz deflected it.
The Indians finished 11-12.
"I actually did think that maybe it wasn't our night," said Andreychik, "but I still had faith that we were going to break through at some point."
The Ironmen, who hit 60 in both previous games with Shamokin, managed just 22 first-half shots and had a 16-14 lead at the half.
"They were switching on everything and keeping us out of our offense sets. We were a little confused on how to attack it," said Smith. "They had a good game plan, and the more they played it the more confident they got. Their coaching staff did an absolutely outstanding job."
Danville was held without a field goal for the final 3:14 of the second quarter and all of the third, shooting 0-for-6 and getting just two free throws in the third.
The Ironmen broke the drought with a Berg lob to Andreychik for a layup on their first touch of the fourth. Minutes later, Andreychik knocked down a trey from the top right, and with 3:13 to play he hit another from the same spot with a hand in his face.
Shamokin went up one on Madara free throws with 2:46 to play, but Zach Kozick -- who entered for the first time in the fourth -- followed a David Vitunac missed trey with a huge weakside putback to put Danville ahead 28-27.
"Rivals rip the heart out of other teams; that's how they become rivals," said Smith. "Shamokin was going to rip our heart out."