COCOLAMUS - Beating a team coached by Kent Houser (467-140 all-time record) is always a challenge. Doing it twice in one season is quite an accomplishment.
On Saturday night, in front of a raucous crowd, East Juniata bore down, stymied the Wildcat offense and came away with a 39-32 win to complete the season sweep of Greenwood (13-4, 10-3).
The win puts the Tigers (15-0, 11-0) in the catbird seat for the Tri-Valley League crown, as they have opened up a two-game lead over Greenwood - which had won the last five titles in a row - and are three-up in the loss column.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY?KREITZER
East Juniata’s Nick Lorenz (3) blocks a shot from Greenwood’s Noah Wright Saturday evening in Cocolamus.
Early on it looked as if East Juniata might have a cake walk to victory. Jeremy Pannebaker hit a pair of threes for the Tigers, sparking his team to a 12-4 advantage by the end of the first quarter.
Greenwood's early struggles were exasperated by seven first-quarter turnovers, including three charge calls.
"We were running good plays to start, had them set up, but couldn't get shots because of the fouls," Houser said.
IF YOU GO
East Juniata travels to Halifax today
Greenwood travels to Selinsgrove today
However, East Juniata misfired on its first nine shots to start the second quarter, and Wildcat junior Nicholas Kerstetter canned three treys of his own in the frame as Greenwood carried an 18-16 lead to the break.
"We lost some of our defensive edge in the second quarter," East Juniata coach Brock Anders explained. "We went underneath some screens and we allowed them to get some of those three-point attempts off and they knocked them down. We made some adjustments at half which allowed us to limit their looks, and we did a better job cleaning up the defensive boards."
Anders' adjustments proved very effective, as the Tigers held Greenwood scoreless for the first 11:23 to start the second half.
"We checked out mentally in the third quarter," Houser said. "We couldn't do anything; we couldn't make any adjustments, or run the plays we wanted to run. They made plays, and we didn't. That is as simple as it gets. You can't go a full period without scoring like we did."
The Tigers took a 25-18 lead to the forth, as Bailey Coder scored five in the third. Coder registered a double-double (13 points, 10 boards) to go with a pair of steals and blocks.
However, Greenwood did not go quietly into the frigid Juniata County night. The Wildcats put on a frantic fourth quarter rally as senior Joseph Sheaffer scored five of his eight in the fourth, and Adam Harrison drained five free throws as they clawed their way back to within four at 36-32, but could get no closer.
Free throw shooting sealed the deal for the Tigers as they connected on 13-of-16 attempts including 8-of-10 in the final stanza. The Tigers also did a good job handling the ball as they only committed six turnovers, two of which came in the second half.
Nick Lorenz proved a valuable asset as he scored 10 and garnered six boards. Pannebaker delivered nine points off the East Juniata bench, and David Brantley's five points, four steals and three boards also were integral keys to the Tigers' success.
Kerstetter paced the Wildcats with nine points on three 3-point goals, while Sheaffer had eight - including a pair of threes - and Harrison tallied seven.
Despite not scoring, Noah Lebicher had a strong performance as he recorded seven rebounds, a steal and a block. Sheaffer pulled down six boards while Seth Ferguson had five.
Both teams get back in action today. East Juniata will travel to Halifax, while Greenwood will have some non-league action at Selinsgrove.