Indians challenge, but Tigers prevail
MIFFLINTOWN – East Juniata has a perfect record in boys basketball, but Thursday the Tigers were as close to gaining a blemish as they have been all season when Juniata took them to a 74-72 double overtime conclusion in what was the epitome of a high school rivalry game.
It was a game of last second shots, ice in their veins free throws and strong defensive plays throughout, but ultimately it was two different Tigers who walked off the court boasting the most influential shots of the game.
The first was Nick Lorenz, who banked a three off the glass as time expired in regulation to propel the Tri-Valley League game into overtime, 63-63.
“We obviously did not draw up the bank part of the play, but he was able to find a way to get the correct angle,” East Juniata coach Brock Anders said, chuckling about the last-second shot.
In the ensuing overtime, Juniata’s Ross Mummah hit 4-of-4 from the line to bring the Indians back from an early deficit, and Josh Parson iced two of his own from the line with four seconds left to put it into a second overtime, 69-69.
If Lorenz was East Juniata’s first hero, David Brantley was the second.
He hit a three with just seconds left in the second overtime to give East Juniata the final lead. Brantley had earned the shot off a bad pass from Juniata, which had the 71-69 lead prior to his trey.
“David’s been steady and consistent for us throughout the year, and he knows he has the green light when he has an open opportunity,” Anders said. “We’ve been setting him up for that opportunity, and I’m just happy he was able to step up and knock it down for us.”
Bailey Coder – who had a game-high 30 points – then hit two from the line for East Juniata with 2.6 seconds left. Juniata’s Tyler Clark took his own trip to the line when he was fouled in double bonus on the ensuing inbounding play and hit one for the 74-72 final score.
“What a game for the fans to see. This is what rival games are all about. Records can be thrown out the door, and you come and you play,” Juniata coach Al Ream said. “And my kids played their hearts out.”
There certainly was no lack of the heart on either end of the court throughout the contest, but it was the Indians who came out hitting hardest. Five different Juniata players scored in the first quarter, versus East Juniata’s three, and by the final eight minutes Juniata led 19-9.
In the stanza Juniata’s help defense held Coder to two points and Lorenz – who finished the game with 24 – to six. Offensively, the Indians relied on shots both inside and out to mount the 10-point lead.
“We are beginning to understand how we play together as a team and to find the open man on our offense,” Ream said. “We knocked down shots when we had to, and everybody did it.”
In the next quarter, East Juniata started to find its offensive groove as Coder lit up the board for 12 points. Brantley also was key when he notched two layups off his own defensive steals, and with 4:30 left in the half, the Tigers had a 21-19 lead. The Indians then began to work their outside game as Justin Mingle, Aaron Zendt and Clark notched one trey apiece before the teams went to the locker room with Juniata holding a slim 33-32 lead.
Coder was again clutch in the third quarter with 10 more points, plus two outstanding blocks against Parson, who together with Logan Knepp burned Coder under the basket several times in the first half. The Indians relied on a five-point effort from Knepp – including one from beyond the arc – to pace their offense in the third quarter, but ultimately they were outscored 17-14 for the East Juniata lead heading into the fourth quarter.
In the final quarter of regulation, Brantley opened the scoring with a three and Lorenz went to the line for two more points to stretch East Juniata’s lead to 60-52, but Knepp answered with a trey at 3:27 to bring it back to 60-55. Thee-of-6 combined shooting from the line from Mingle and Mummah made it 60-58, and Clark gave the Indians a 61-60 lead with a three at the 34-second mark.
From there the Indians ran the clock down – not entirely on purpose, as they missed several easy shots but managed to pull down each rebound – and Mummah hit two more foul shots with around 10 seconds remaining for the 63-60 lead. However, that’s where Lorenz stepped in with his buzzer beater.
“Our guys found enough ways in the end to pull out a win, and all I can say is what a game between two teams. What a game,” Anders said.
From Ream’s perspective, it was what he called a “complete game,” explaining that it was the first time all season he has seen his team play to its full potential through a full four quarters.
East Juniata (17-0, 13-0) looks to maintain its perfect record when it travels to Millersburg on Monday. Juniata (8-8, 5-7) travels to Newport on the same day.
Juniata had four players in double figures, including Knepp with 17, Mingle and Clark with 14 and Parson with 12. Brantley was the final double figure scorer with 13.