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Geibel's Ewing scores career-high 28 points in key section win

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 11:15 p.m.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Geibel's James Ewing (10) looks to make a play while being guarded by Avella's Brandon Miller during a Section 3-A game Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at Geibel High School.
Lori Padilla | For the Daily Courier
Geibel's Matt Mammarella cuts to the basket around Avella's Walt Kopko during a Section 3-A game on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 at Geibel High School.

With four Section 3-A losses already on its record, the Geibel boys basketball team knew beating Avella at home Friday night was of utmost importance if it wanted to retain solid hopes of making the WPIAL playoffs.

The Gators came through.

Despite trailing for a majority of the first half, the Gators continued to battle and took control late on the way to a 60-52 victory.

“We talked about it in practice,” Geibel coach Bill Hughes said. “We told them that if we won, we'd be in a three-way tie (in section wins) with Avella and Mapletown for fourth place. The guys have been working hard, and I'm proud of their effort.”

Hughes especially was pleased that his team overcame several obstacles to beat the Eagles.

Brandon Miller led the Eagles (3-11, 1-3) with 22 points, and Walt Kopko finished with 12 points and helped Avella to an early lead.

However, the Gators (2-11, 1-4) stayed aggressive defensively and started to get rewarded on the offensive side.

Brent Plisko scored five points in the opening quarter as Geibel stayed within striking distance at 11-7. In the second quarter, Geibel's James Ewing began to assert himself.

He scored eight points in the quarter on his way to a career-high 28-point effort.

“James is a silent leader, and a game like this for him is huge,” Hughes said. “He did a good job of handling the pressure.”

Bailey Miller scored eight points in the second quarter to help the Gators pull within 29-28 at the half.

With momentum already on their side, the Gators received another boost prior to the start of the third quarter.

Matt Mammarella, who suffered a leg injury in the first half, told the team he would be able to come back for the second half. He added two big buckets in the second half to help Geibel overtake the visitors.

“Matt Mammarella is our heart and soul,” Hughes said. “He went down in the second quarter, but at halftime, he said he was good to go.”

Geibel came out strong in the second half as Ewing buried two big shots to help the Gators claim a 38-36 lead headed to the fourth.

With the game tied at 38-38, Tucker Bokan hit a 3-pointer to put the Gators ahead to stay. Ewing connected for 13 fourth-quarter points to help seal the win.

For Avella, the game represented a missed opportunity to gain the driver's seat in the race for one of the last playoff spots in the section. Avella coach Joseph Hough pinpointed the Eagles' main weakness in the loss.

“We couldn't make free throws,” Hough said, lamenting his team's 14-of-31 effort from the line. “Geibel played really well, but we have to knock down free throws. This was a huge ballgame. If we win, we're sitting pretty, but it's a tough loss.

“The kids played hard, but we couldn't make free throws.”

Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. Reach him at

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