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Unlikely hero lifts Kittanning to OT win

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 10:57 p.m.

James Webb's name wasn't even on the scoresheet for most of four quarters. By the end of overtime, it was being chanted by the Kittanning student section.

Webb hit a game-tying 3-pointer — his first points of the game — as the horn sounded to end regulation, and the Kittanning sophomore scored six more points in the overtime period to give the Wildcats a win over visiting Highlands, 54-47, in a Section 1-AAA game Friday.

“We'll just call him Big Game James,” Kittanning coach Bill Henry said. “We ran a play specifically to get our guys open on the perimeter, and he hit the shot. He's a sophomore, but we're over halfway through the section, so he's not playing like a sophomore.”

The buzzer-beating hoop came after Julian Flenory hit a pair of foul shots for Highlands (6-9, 2-5) to extend the lead to 42-39 with 11.1 seconds left. Alek Shaffer brought the ball upcourt for Kittanning (5-10, 2-5) and passed it to the right corner, where Webb took one dribble, stepped back and released the biggest shot of the Wildcats' season.

“On that play, I start in the corner, and I'm supposed to come up, but Alek got trapped up there and threw it down to me,” Webb said. “I pump faked, stepped back and shot it.”

“You've got to give the kid all the credit. He stepped up and made a big play,” Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said. “When you're down, you need someone to step up, and he did that for Kittanning. What an outstanding play.”

The shot by Webb didn't end the game, but it set the tone for overtime.

Webb got his second basket of the game on the first possession of overtime, and that hoop started a 7-0 run for the Wildcats. That gave Kittanning more than enough cushion as Highlands' only field goal of the overtime period was a 3-pointer by Tyler Alworth in the final 10 seconds.

“One of the things I said was to get the tip and score first, that way we could go back into our zone (defense),” Henry said. “We got back in our 3-2 zone to make them shoot from the perimeter, and from there, we had the advantage.”

“Everybody was flying around after I hit that shot,” Webb said. “I've never seen that before. It was kind of crazy.”

All the action at the finish was a far cry from the third quarter, when there were more groans and boos from the crowd than excited cheers.

Highlands scored the first two baskets of the second half to take a 28-22 lead. With Kittanning content to sit in its 3-2 zone, the Rams held the ball on the perimeter and ran more than four minutes off the clock on one possession.

“I think we're more effective against man-to-man, and today that seemed to be the case,” Stoczynski said. “We wanted to hold the ball to try and bring them out of it, and when they did, it became a ball game again.”

Henry finally got his zone to extend outward, and Logan Slagle tipped a pass that Shaffer stole and converted at the other end. The Wildcats would continue to play conservatively in the quarter, and Shaffer added the only other basket, which made the score 28-26 after a 4-4 third quarter.

“We were only down six, and I'll take that,” Henry said. “It wasn't like we were standing there. We were moving around and staying active. Of course, the kids and everybody get frustrated with it, but my thought was that if we made them hold the ball, the mistake was going to be made by them.”

Shaffer finished the game with 16 points and eight rebounds, and Eric Hulings added 10 points and Noah Spang scored nine for Kittanning, which played without leading scorer Noah Kunst.

Kaison Branch led Highlands with 15 points, and Ryan Boda scored 13 for the Rams.

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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