United boys edge Dragons for first 'W'
After watching Purchase Line's lead increase after each of the first three quarters Tuesday night, a thrilling finish and United's first victory of the season seemed equally unlikely.
But the Lions' senior-night supporters got to witness both scenarios play out as United pulled off an improbable comeback to edge the Dragons 45-44 in the game's closing seconds.
“It feels good to get the monkey off our backs,” Lions coach Tyler Stokes said after his team snapped out of its 0-17 slump.
The Dragons held United to nine, seven and nine points in the first three quarters, respectively, stretching a 21-16 halftime lead to 37-25 by the start of the fourth quarter.
United nearly doubled its point total over the course of the final period while Purchase Line, intent on slowing the game down to protect its lead, may have shut down its offense too early.
The Dragons didn't hit a single shot from the floor in the final period, the entirety of their seven points coming from the charity stripe.
Davey Patterson and Michael Gill did most of the scoring for United in the fourth quarter, combining for 15 of the Lions' 20 fourth-quarter points.
It was Jacob Beacker, though, who closed out the win.
Beacker hit a jumper with 48 seconds remaining to put the Lions ahead for the first time since the first quarter, then got to the foul line with just under 7.9 seconds on the clock for the game's final point.
“He's a good free-throw shooter,” Stokes said of Beacker. “Both of them looked good going down, that second one just happened to bounce out.”
Taylor Antisdel, who had knotted the game at 44 with a pair of free throws, pulled in the rebound of Beacker's errant second attempt and the Dragons called a timeout with 6 seconds left to set up one final shot.
“When he called a timeout I told the guys ‘Isn't this fun to be in this situation? Do whatever you can to get your hands on the ball, but no fouling,'” Stokes said. “They did good down the stretch.”
Gavin Ewing's open look from the left elbow caught just enough of the back rim to careen high above the key as the buzzer sounded and United's fans burst into celebration.
Eric Faught led Purchase Line with 12 points, but managed just two after halftime and seemed to get out of rhythm after heading to the bench with a technical foul late in the third quarter.
“It was a big help,” Stokes said of Faught's brief absence. “I told the guys at the beginning of the game that in order to win we've got to get this kid in foul trouble. He's what makes their team go. At halftime I was kind of upset because we weren't going at him like I wanted to. The second half we went at him a little better and had to get him to sit down. That was the key I think to the game right there.”
The Lions ratcheted up the pressure on Purchase Line's ball handlers during their fourth-quarter run, coming up with several easy baskets off turnovers on inbounds plays.
“We wanted to speed them up because we thought they struggled a little bit against that,” Stokes said. “It helps to have Mike up front. He has nice, long arms so he makes it tough to pass over. Then our guards were making good reads and traps on the back end.”
Patterson led United with 17 points while Gill added 12 and three steals. Beacker had 11 points and four steals.
“Mike, the second half of the season has really picked up his game. He's an offensive threat. He scored 19 a few weeks ago, so he's been playing well. Davey is always an offensive threat. When he's got the ball, I tell him to keep shooting.”
Patterson also pulled in a team-high seven rebounds, blocked four shots and had three steals.
Purchase Line's Alec Sunderlin joined Faught in double digits with 10 points and chipped in seven boards, while Troy Frantz came up with a game-high eight steals for the Dragons.
Northern Cambria 46
Troy Williams had a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds Tuesday as Blairsville upset the Colts, knocking Northern Cambria into a three-way tie for the top spot in the Heritage Conference standings with Homer-Center and Marion Center.
The Bobcats (8-10, 6-6) snapped a five-game skid with a win last week over United and managed consecutive wins for the first time since Jan. 2.
Blairsville led 20-16 after the first quarter before Northern Cambria rallied to take a 35-33 lead into halftime.
The Bobcats shut down the Colts' in the second half, holding Northern Cambria to just five points in the third quarter and six in the fourth.
Colton McMillan had 16 points and seven assists for the Bobcats.
Seniors Jeff Hogan and Adam Polites paced the Colts' scoring attack with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Northern Cambria fell to 13-4 and suffered just its second Heritage Conference loss, dropping its conference record to 9-2.
The Wildcats moved into a first-place tie in the Heritage Conference with Tuesday's win over Saltsburg and Northern Cambria's loss.
Matt Jones led Homer-Center with 21 points and Joey Capitosti added 16.
Glenn Richards had 17 points to lead Saltsburg (7-11, 6-6).
Marion Center 49,
Ligonier Valley 47
Brodey Thompson scored a game-high 20 points Tuesday to lead the Stingers to their seventh straight win and a share of first place in the conference.
The host Rams (9-7, 6-5) led 29-24 at halftime, but Marion Center (11-6, 9-2) cut the margin to 36-35 by the start of the fourth quarter.
Todd Fetsko had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Marion Center.
Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or firstname.lastname@example.org.