HERSHEY Sullivan County remembers what happened in the first round of the PIAA championships at the Milton Hershey Spartan Center in 2011, and from the tip Friday, the Griffins determined not to let it happen again. Then, a Wildcat victory now, a 24-point Griffin triumph that sent the District 3 runner-up Wildcats home early, 56-32.
With a week layoff from the one-point District 3 Class A championship loss to Lebanon Catholic, the Wildcats seemed to have plenty of time to recognize and repair their mistakes in preparation for the first round PIAA battle, but strength and size are tough to match and Greenwood was overwhelmed by Sullivan County on both accounts.
"I just thought we didn't really recover from last Friday and that disappointment," Greenwood coach Kent Houser said. "It wasn't a real good week at practice."
Sentinel photo by LARRY?YOHN
Greenwood’s Josh Ferguson, left, drives to the basket while Sullivan County’s Lucas Hatton (24) and Derek Williams (40) defend during the first round of the PIAA Class A boys basketball tournament Friday in Milton Hershey High School.
"We just didn't play well enough to win, they played a great game. They did everything they wanted to do and we didn't do anything we wanted to do that's going to make for a long night, and it was a long night," Houser added.
Shooting the ball well and playing solid defense have seemed to be the recipe for success for the District 3 runner up, but for a team that averages nearly 60 points a game, the Wildcats struggled to do either. Make no mistake, the Griffins were visibly motivated - forcing the 'Cats into uncomfortable situations as the squad played aggressive defense and crashed the boards while playing a steady offense geared toward its strength of getting the ball into the post.
One of the Griffins' many big men, Derek Wilkins, started slowly but warmed up after the intermission, dropping 12 of his team-high 16 total points in the third and fourth quarters.
Sullivan County kept its work boots tied tightly and the visitors on the scoreboard played as if they were in their home gym. The Griffins outrebounded and muscled the 'Cats inside and prevented second-chance opportunities while knocking down easy points in the paint. Greenwood had a difficult time finding an answer to Sullivan County's physicality.
"When we have run into big, physical strong kids like that, we've had a heck of a rough time," Houser said. "We had a horrible time with that tonight."
Adam Harrison led the Wildcats in the scoring column, netting 11-first quarter points en rout to his game-high 18. Harrison's old-fashioned three-point play late in the first quarter knotted the game at 13 and his shooting effort in the opening stanza kept his team in the game as it trailed by only two heading to the second quarter. From there, field goals were scarce the 'Cats made six the rest of the way. Two Wildcat field goals in the second quarter enabled the Griffins to go on a 29-7 point run that spanned the second and third quarters.
Josh Ferguson added six points while teammate Ryan Kerstetter struggled to find his stroke from beyond the three-point line he finished the night with two points.
"Our offense execution was not good - too many times somebody wasn't on the right page. We really spent a lot of time on that this week and it didn't improve any," Houser said.
Greenwood attempted to claw its way back into the game but the Griffins were too strong inside and out as they stretched the lead to put the home team in an insurmountable hole.
"They came out and wanted it a heck of a lot more than we did. We just didn't have any answers," Houser said.