East Juniata falls in heartbreaker

COCOLAMUS A gym that had been rocking all afternoon was silent except for the cheers of the opposing fans.

Red-rimmed eyes and looks of shock filled the floor as the fans filed out of the East Juniata High School gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.

It certainly wasn’t how the basketball careers of the four East Juniata seniors Nick Lorenz, Bailey Coder, David Brantley and Jeremy Pannebaker were supposed to end.

No. 8-seed Southern Columbia survived a pair of game-tying buzzer-beaters by Pannebaker and Jake Sankey at the end of regulation and the first overtime to hold off previously undefeated East Juniata 65-62 in double overtime in the District 4 Class AA quarterfinals.

Ten minutes after the defeat, East Juniata coach Brock Anders still seemed in shock over how his team’s season ended.

“There aren’t words to describe this feeling losing on your home floor with your co-captain fouling out early,” Anders said. “All the adversity seemed to be against (our kids), but they kept battling and battling. I’m proud and I told them they should be proud too. They accomplished a lot this season.”

Southern Columbia improves to 13-11 on the season and will face Lewisburg, a 64-47 winner over Wellsboro, in the District 4 Class AA semifinals next week. Southern Columbia lost twice this season to Lewisburg.

East Juniata finishes its season at 22-1.

East Juniata got off to a quick start against Southern Columbia, forcing an early timeout with an 8-0 lead and when Pannebaker hit two 3-pointers sandwiched around a Lorenz drive early in the second quarter East Juniata led by 10 points.

Kyle Mostick, who scored nine of his 14 points in the second quarter, hit a 3-pointer to spark an 11-0 run to get Southern Columbia back in the game and the lead at 24-23 and the game was a battle from that point.

Lorenz tied the game at 39-39 early in the fourth quarter with two foul shots, but Southern Columbia scored the next nine points on Rarig’s bucket with 2:24 left in the game.

Lorenz answered with pull up 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions for East Juniata to bring them back 48-45 with 2:08 left.

Walker Palacz made two foul shots to push the lead back to five for Southern Columbia, but those would be the last points Southern Columbia would score. Southern missed four foul shots and Coder made a great block on what appeared to be a wide-open layup in the final 1:18.

Meanwhile, it still looked Southern would hold on. Sankey hit a 3-point with 57 seconds left, but when Coder’s long jumper with three seconds left hit the front of the rim, it appeared Southern survived. However, no one boxed out Pannebaker whose put back fell through at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.

After finding Coder (nine points, 17 rebounds, and five blocks) for an early bucket in overtime, Lorenz fouled out with 3:09 left in the first overtime. Lorenz left the game with a game-high 26 points and as Juniata County’s all-time leading scorer surpassing Juniata High Ben Allen’s career total of 1,495. Lorenz finishes with 1,513 points.

With East Juniata leading by two points, Mike Klebon canned a 3 to give Southern Columbia a 55-54 lead 1:40 left before Palacz hit two foul shots with 46 seconds left to push the lead to three.

East Juniata tied the score with three seconds left when Sankey hit a 3-point from the top of the key.

“I think our role players have an expectation (to contribute) and we’ve been working hard with them just for situations like this,” Anders said. “As their coach, I expect them to make those plays. I was so proud with how they executed those plays at the end to get us into the first and second overtime.”

“That (stuff) takes the air out of you,” Southern Columbia coach Joey Britto said. “I know as a coach it does, so I’m sure it’s harder on the kids. I just told them to forget about it. Lorenz fouling out really helped a lot. If that wouldn’t have happened, it certainly would have made it tougher.”

East Juniata took its final lead of the game at 60-58 with 2:13 left in the second overtime, Rarig made back-to-back buckets inside to give the Tigers a 62-60 lead, before a Palacz foul shot made it 63-60 with 11 seconds left.

Southern Columbia fouled David Brantley in the backcourt with eight seconds lefts which cut the lead to 63-62 before Klebon’s layup against pressure sealed it.

Klebon led four Southern Columbia players in double figures with 19 points.