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Beaver Falls guard does it again

| Thursday, March 23, 2006

As far as game-winning shots by Lance Jeter go, this one was fairly ho-hum.

Jeter hit a free throw with 3.2 seconds to play to give defending state champion Beaver Falls a 71-70 victory over Quaker Valley in the PIAA Class AA semifinals at Palumbo Center on Wednesday night.

"That," he said, "was the easiest one."

The foul shot, which capped an 11-point, fourth-quarter comeback, added to Jeter's growing legacy of huge playoff baskets, including two in wins over Aliquippa on the way to last year's PIAA Class AA title.

So, when Quaker Valley senior forward Ryann Bradford made one of two free throws to tie the score at 70 with 8.6 seconds to play, everyone in the nearly packed Palumbo Center knew who was going to try to win it for Beaver Falls (27-4).

But before Jeter could even get to mid-court, Quaker Valley senior guard Amir Johnson was called for a foul while going for a steal against the Beaver Falls star.

"He tried to make a play for his team because he's the captain," Jeter said. "You can't blame him for that."

With coaches from Akron -- one of the schools recruiting Jeter -- looking on, Jeter missed the first free throw. But he stepped back, got a few words of encouragement from his teammates and calmly swished the next one for a one-point lead with 3.2 seconds to play.

The game ended when Johnson missed a desperation half-court shot at the buzzer.

The exuberant Beaver Falls cheering section celebrated the return trip to the PIAA Class AA final by launching a cascade of Hershey's Kisses, chocolate bars and even a half-eaten Milky Way onto the Palumbo Center floor. Beaver Falls scooped up the goodies, as the players were showered with the treats.

"When the game is on the line, the ball seems to find its way into his hands, and every time the kid comes through," Beaver Falls coach Doug Biega said. "There was no doubt in my mind that Lance was going to make that shot."

Jeter finished with a game-high 31 points. Senior guard Jack Anderson scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer with 16.2 seconds to play, as Beaver Falls overcame a 61-50 fourth-quarter deficit.

"Jeter wants the ball at the end of the game," Quaker Valley coach Tom Demko said. "Great players want the ball at the end of the game, and they make plays."

Johnson scored 20 points for the Quakers (23-8). Ryan Courneen added 19, and Ryann Bradford 14.

Beaver Falls will try to become the first team to win back-to-back PIAA Class AA titles since 1979 when the Tigers play Penn Charter (27-5) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Giant Center. Penn Charter, the third-place team from the Philadelphia public school league, defeated York Catholic, 56-53, in the Eastern final.

Quaker Valley, trying to reach the state finals for the first time since 1999, showed more desire and energy in the first half and led, 16-9, after one quarter. By the time a 16-0 run was finished with 5:50 to play in the second quarter, Quaker Valley (23-8) led, 24-9. Beaver Falls cut the deficit to 37-27 at halftime, and then opened the second half on a 14-4 run to tie the score at 41. Quaker Valley answered with a 20-9 run and led, 61-50, after Courneen's 3-pointer with 7:01 to play.

Beaver Falls trailed, 68-63, with 1:45 left, but Jeter scored a bucket and freshman Todd Thomas scored his first basket of the game to make it 68-67. With Quaker Valley leading, 69-67, Anderson hit a 3-pointer to make it 70-69. Bradford's free throw with 8.6 seconds to play set the stage for another Jeter game-winner.

"Sometimes it goes their way; Sometimes it doesn't," Jeter said. "Fortunately, it goes my way most every time I get the chance."

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