By Marion Valanoski
For The Daily Item
— COAL TOWNSHIP -- C.J. Tyler knew there was precious little time left on the clock.
So he let the shot fly and when the crowd raced onto the floor Tuesday night, the junior guard knew his shot was successful.
Shikellamy ended a 12-game losing streak to defending district champion Danville, stunning the top-seeded Ironmen, 50-47, in the District 4 Class AAA semifinals at Shamokin on Tyler's buzzer-beater.
The victory puts the Braves back into the district title game -- against either Milton or Athens later this week -- and also earns Shikellamy its second consecutive trip to the state playoffs.
The Braves could not have picked a better time to end the Ironmen's dominance on the hardwood and Tyler, who came into the contest struggling from the perimeter, came up with the biggest shot of his young career to pull off the stunning upset of the top-seeded Danville squad.
The Braves' defense allowed the visitors to stay within striking distance of the upset all night long. Danville's Austin Renz drilled two big 3-pointers in the stanza to put the Ironmen up 43-40 before Shikellamy's Zach Herbster rebounded a miss into two points to cut the deficit to 43-42.
Bret Berg gave Danville the lead, 45-42, on a driving layup before senior Ernie Tyler, C.J.'s older brother, again pulled the visitors to within a point, 45-44, on a pair of free throws. Zack Kozick provided the Ironmen with their final advantage, 47-44, but the Braves again responded with yet another big shot when Ernie Tyler buried a trey with 41 seconds remaining to forge a 47-47 deadlock.
The Ironmen brought the ball down the floor looking for the last shot but strong defensive pressure forced Danville to put a shot earlier than it expected. Ernie Tyler grabbed the rebound and whipped it down court to his brother, who gave a little fake and let the ball go with .7 seconds showing. The end result was nothing but net and complete bedlam as the winners enjoyed a rare win over one of their biggest rivals.
"Ernie got the ball to me and I didn't have time to think," Tyler said. "I knew there could not have been much time left and just let it go and it was nothing but net."
Winning coach Tim Foor could only wait until the horn went off before he could look up at the scoreboard and realize the significance of the shot.
"I heard my assistants yelling but until the ball went through the net I didn't want to say anything," Foor said. "This is a credit to these players who played so hard and to come up big against the quality of Danville's team is just fantastic. These players earned the win and deserved it."
Danville took the early lead in the game behind the torrid outside shooting of Scott Heeter and Kozick, who combined for three treys and propel the Ironmen to a 19-11 advantage after eight minutes.
Heeter and Kozick each drained a 3-pointer in the second quarter to help the Ironmen grab their biggest lead, 30-19, but the Braves did not buckle under. They calmly battled and went into the break trailing, 30-22, after back-to-back treys by Derek Amerman and Ernie Tyler.
"I told the players we had the momentum after fighting back and we just had to do better scoring in the paint," Foor said.
Danville coach Lenny Smith pointed to Shikellamy's run at the end of the first half as being huge in their staying in the game.
"We got hurt when Bret Berg hurt his ankle and Tyler came down and hit that trey before the break," Smith said. "That gave them the momentum but in the second half they played great defense and we allowed their shooters to get into good position on the perimeter; we missed too many assignments. But give them credit they played hard and made all the big shots when they needed them."
The Braves turned up the defensive pressure in the second half and forced the Ironmen into 13 turnovers while doing a better job of limiting Danville's second and third shots.
Ernie Tyler led the Braves with 18 points while Mowery added 10. Danville was led by Kozick's 14 points and Heeter contributed 12.