COCOLAMUS - Before a jam-packed crowd permeated by a nearly palpable buzz of excitement, the East Juniata boys made a strong statement in their win against Tri-Valley League leader Greenwood - the Tigers are not easily tamed.
And it might be said this was a statement 15 years in the making.
The Tigers hadn't beaten the Wildcats in boys basketball action since 1998, but Friday's 42-40 win came at a very opportune time.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE?BOYER
Greenwood’s Adam Harrison, center, goes up for the basket as East Juniata’s Cole Snyder, right, and Bailey Coder, try to block Friday night in Cocolamus. East Juniata won, 42-40. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
Greenwood hadn't given up a TVL game since a loss to Upper Dauphin on Feb. 4, 2010, and so by bringing Greenwood's 2013 TVL record to 12-1, the Tigers kept it a possibility - albeit a very slim one - that they could take the league title.
"Obviously it's been a lopsided battle of the last couple years, but slowly and surely these guys have bought into what we want to do as a coaching staff and as a program, and I think we saw in the fourth quarter some guys dig down real deep, play some good defense and some of our leaders stepping up on the floor and making some huge plays," East Juniata coach Brock Anders said.
Anders was spot on in highlight in the fourth quarter.
IF YOU GO
* East Juniata hosts Line Mountain Tuesday
* Greenwood travels to Line Mountain Friday
Heading into the final stanza of the game, the Wildcats held a 33-26 lead, but several factors, including a 10-point quarter from East Juniata's Nick Lorenz and some missed Greenwood opportunities resulted in the 42-40 final.
The quarter opened with a 3-pointer from Lorenz in East Juniata's first possession to cut Greenwood's lead to 33-29. From there, buckets from East Juniata's Dillon Leonard and Cole Snyder, plus one from Greenwood's Adam Harrison lined things up at 35-33 in the Wildcats' favor, but Lorenz wasn't done yet.
After hitting two from the line on a Greenwood technical, Lorenz tied it at 35-35, then scored a layup on the following possession to give the Tigers the lead with just four minutes left in the game.
As it turned out, the Tigers would never relinquish this lead, but the Wildcats didn't go down without a fight as they continued to bring the score back to within one point, but could never pull the trigger to regain the lead.
Greenwood first brought it back to within one when, with less than a minute left to play, Nick Kerstetter hit a free throw, then teammate Josh Ferguson was fouled on a breakaway layup and hit two more from the stripe, cutting East Juniata's lead to 39-38.
Wind down the clock to 14, and the score was at 41-38 after East Juniata's Bailey Coder hit two free throws, but Ferguson again brought it to within one when he hit a layup.
That, however, was the last time Greenwood would light up the board, and to finish the game Lorenz put one more up for the Tigers with 11 second left on the clock. By this point both teams were in fouling trouble and Lorenz got the one-and-one option after being fouled on the floor.
"I give (East Juniata) a lot of credit. They made plays. They made the plays they had to win the game, and we didn't," Greenwood coach Kent Houser said.
Strong Greenwood plays included a four-point run by Fegley to give Greenwood its 33-26 lead at the end of the third, an overall team-high 14 points from Ferguson and a team defense that kept all East Juniata players but Bailey Coder and Lorenz scoreless until the fourth quarter. But, in a game full of strong plays on both ends of the floor, it was the Tigers who finished with a higher rate of execution.
"Traditionally if (Greenwood's) taking care of the ball they've got the key down the stretch, but whatever factor it was tonight, we were able to execute our stuff, " Anders said, adding that his team's defense was key in sealing the victory.
"They out executed us, they played better than us down the stretch and they deserved to win the game. They won. We didn't lose - they won," Houser said.
One key area in which the Tigers executed was with Lorenz's final 22-point effort. At 4:34 in the fourth Lorenz got his fourth foul, but he stayed the course, putting up 10 points in the final stanza to lead East Juniata to the win.
"Nick gave me that look and said, 'Coach, I'll handle it,'" Anders said of Nick's reaction after recording the fourth foul.
Anders also added that Lorenz had been fighting a fever earlier in the day, but he overcame for the game-high scoring effort.
Coder was also big for the Tigers, recording 16 points despite Greenwood's tough-help defense below the basket.
Greenwood (16-3, 12-1) travels to Line Mountain Friday. East Juniata (15-3, 10-2) hosts Line Mountain Tuesday.