Follow the leader

MILLERSTOWN – It’s tough to take a four-point quarter and still beat a team like East Juniata, but that’s exactly what the Greenwood boys did Thursday night.

Rolling off a win over Susquenita to capture the Perry County Tournament title, the Wildcats maintained their perfect Tri-Valley League record with a 58-48 win over Tigers, cementing their position atop the league’s boys basketball standings.

It was the Tigers’ first TVL loss.

Greenwood coach Kent Houser said he knew the Tigers would present a threat and he told his team earlier in the week that he needed three strong quarters.

In the first quarter, Houser got one of those three.

During this quarter, in which the Wildcats outscored the Tigers 24-13, Ryan Kerstetter was a major offensive force. Kerstetter scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the first, and nine of those came from behind the three-point line.

Kerstetter seemed able to hit 3-pointers at will, and the Wildcats really stepped up their lead near the middle of the quarter when Kerstetter hit two threes in a row, followed by a Wildcat steal on East Juniata’s end of the court which resulted in another three from teammate Josh Ferguson.

After this quick nine-point spurt, Greenwood led 17-7.

East Juniata’s Nick Lorenz then answered with an old-fashioned 3-point play to cut into Greenwood’s lead. Teammate Bailey Coder hit nine of his 18 points in the first, but the fact that they were the only two scoring spelled out trouble for the Tigers. In fact, Lorenz and Coder were the only Tigers to score for the first three quarters – and this would prove troublesome for East Juniata later in the game.

A strong case in point occurred in the second, where the Tigers got smart to Kerstetter’s perimeter play and held the Wildcats to only four points. But unfortunately for the Tigers, they were not able to answer with many points of their own.

East Juniata had trouble putting the ball in the basket during the second – it was their lowest scoring quarter, too, with eight – and this only allowed them to take a four-point cut into the Wildcats’ lead heading in to the third.

“We needed a couple more guys to get some contributions out of tonight in order to win. Nick (Lorenz) and Bailey (Coder) can do what they can do, but those other guys have got to make shots, and unfortunately tonight they didn’t knock them down,” East Juniata coach Brock Anders said.

In the third, although Coder opened the quarter with another old-fashioned 3-point play to make the score 28-24, Greenwood had unlocked East Juniata’s defense, and many short jump shots and layups from Ferguson and Tyler Fegley put the Wildcats back in control with a 47-32 lead by the quarter’s end.

East Juniata responded in the fourth with a 12-5 run within the first three minutes to chip away at the lead, but it was too little, too late and Greenwood finished the game with a 58-48 win.

Houser said the first quarter, in which the Wildcats established their large lead, was crucial in the outcome of the game.

“That got us off, got us a lead and got us breathing room that we were able to hold onto for the rest of the night,” he said. “It kept them playing from behind. I’d always rather be playing from ahead than from behind.”

Anders offered praise to Greenwood for its consistent play.

“(Greenwood) made more plays than we did, they made their free throws in the end, they worked their offense to perfection, they’re well coached and all their players are fundamentally sound,” he said.

But despite his disappointment, Anders did say he was pleased with the way his team responded in the second quarter, mentioning how difficult it can be to come back after a large deficit such as the one created in the first quarter.

“Obviously, overcoming that kind of deficit early on and the emotions of the game is difficult. I thought we responded very well in the second quarter and even parts of the third,” Anders said.

In the end, Lorenz finished with a game-high 23 points. Coder had 18 and Ferguson had 17.

East Juniata (8-2, 4-1) hosts Millersburg on Monday. Greenwood (8-2, 4-0) travels to Lancaster Country Day today.