West Shamokin hangs on to defeat Apollo-Ridge
For almost eight minutes Wednesday night at Apollo-Ridge, the host Vikings found themselves in a scoring drought against West Shamokin.
Those Wolves failed to slow Apollo-Ridge in mid-December. But, with third place on the line in Section 1-AA, West Shamokin stepped up its efforts and stifled its opponent in the rematch.
Able to survive Apollo-Ridge's late rally, West Shamokin (10-9, 5-5) won, 59-53, to secure at least a share of third place. The Wolves led by one after the first quarter, six by halftime and 16 by the end of the third quarter. But the Vikings (14-7, 4-5) cut the deficit to four with about three minutes remaining in the game.
“I think Apollo-Ridge took us a little for granted,” said West Shamokin coach Mike Nagy, whose team lost, 67-52, at home on Dec. 21. “They had their way with us at our place, and our kids wanted to gain some respect back.”
After 3-pointers in consecutive possessions by Alex Smith, Apollo-Ridge led, 15-12, with 1:16 left in the first quarter. But Anthony Rocco's back-to-back buckets put West Shamokin ahead, 16-15, at the quarter break.
Those four points became part of a 14-0 run for West Shamokin. Rocco had six points during the run, Zac Horner had four, and Damon Craig had four.
Cody Billingsley's two free throws ended the drought with 1:27 left in the half.
The third quarter proved to be just as frustrating for the Vikings, who made seven of 21 field goals in the first half, including two of 10 3-point attempts. After a layup by Tre Tipton 14 seconds into the quarter, Apollo-Ridge was scoreless for four minutes. It finished with just six points in the quarter.
“It was one of our better defensive games,” Craig said. “We were all on the same page and clicking together.”
West Shamokin, meanwhile, continued to roll with a balanced offense and an effective 1-3-1 half-court zone defense.
Facing a potential home blowout as the fourth quarter started, Apollo-Ridge responded with its most dominant stretch of the game. Lucas Burrell managed a steal and a fast-break layup 30 seconds into the quarter. Then came a 12-0 run that included a fast break by Burrell, a floater in the lane by Josh Reynolds, a 3-pointer by Evan Davis and five points from Tipton, who finished with a team-high 16.
Rocco refused to watch his Wolves squander another fourth-quarter lead and took over, scoring eight of his game-high 26 points in the final 4:14.
“We fell behind, and I felt the kids started to panic a little bit and rush the shots,” Apollo-Ridge coach Matt Gourley said.
Apollo-Ridge will host Ford City (6-14, 2-7) Friday in its section finale.
“I think it makes a huge difference for the psyche of our team,” Gourley said of the loss. “I think it's important for us to go in (to the playoffs) as winners rather than just fighting for playoff positioning.”
Bill West is the local sports editor of the Leader Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.