Indians advance to TVL title game
Lauver scores 19 in Juniata’s bounce-back
MIFFLINTOWN – Juniata boys basketball coach Al Ream needed a bounce-back game after a 20-point loss to Tyrone last week. In the Tri-Valley League semifinal game Wednesday night, his team didn’t disappoint.
Juniata dominated in every phase of the game, especially on the boards, to come away with the 54-40 victory over Millersburg. With the win, Juniata (18-4) advances to the TVL title game against Halifax on Friday.
“I thought we played very well defensively tonight, especially in the first half. We held them to 17 points and they have a kid who can shoot (Christian Wingard),” Ream said. “He can score. I knew he was going to get in the twenties but I thought we held him in check for the most part. Overall, we played a really good, solid game tonight”
Juniata owned the glass, holding a commanding 33-15 edge. Offensively, the Indians went 6-for-10 from the three-point line. Ben Lauver led Juniata with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Josh Parson collected 10 points and 12 boards.
“We rebounded well tonight. Josh and Ben cleaned the boards; we got the ball inside and got their bigs in foul trouble. Rebounding was big for us. Most of the game we held them to just one shot a possession,” Ream said. “We played within ourselves offensively. We worked our offense and got some good shots. We got the ball in, we got the ball out and that opened up our three-point game with what we did inside.”
Juniata started the game with an 8-0 run, thanks to five points from Lauver and a three from Bryce Leonard. Millersburg’s Wingard scored seven points in the frame, but lost the quarter, 16-9, and played catch-up the rest of the way. Juniata broke the 2-3 zone of Millersburg with crisp, precise passes inside.
“We knew they were going to do that (go into the zone). They started out in the triangle-and-two, went to man and then switched to the 2-3 zone,” Ream said. “We worked the ball and got it inside and that’s what we have to do. Our big guys played well. Our guys on the perimeter got the ball inside with good, clean passes and we were able to take advantage.”
Lauver added seven in the second quarter and Juniata finished 5-of-7 from 3-point range, and ended the quarter with a 7-2 run to take a 31-17 halftime lead. Wingard, who finished with 24 points, had 11 of Millersburg’s 17 in the first half. Despite scoring above his average (22.0), Juniata held Wingard to just 8-of-17 from the field.
Both teams turned the ball over and struggled to start the second half. Millersburg (15-9) won the frame by a 9-8 margin – making it 39-26 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
Millersburg went on a 10-2 run to start the fourth – narrowing the deficit to 41-34 with 4:16 left in regulation. Wingard, who had nine in the quarter, keyed the run by scoring seven straight buckets to start the frame.
“We got off to a bad start and never recovered. Give Juniata credit. They beat us bad on the boards, played solid defense and made the shots they needed to make,” Millersburg coach Todd Wingard said. “We clawed our way back later in the game but we couldn’t stop them on the offensive glass and that was the difference.”
Any hope of a comeback ended when Juniata regained its composure and went on a 12-4 run to seal the deal. Bryson Clark and Lauver combined for 10 points to key the run and give Juniata the victory.
“We got back on track tonight. We had some time to work on fundamentals. We worked on those things and I’m pleased with the way we played. It was an all-around good effort on our part,” Ream said. “Now we have to keep the momentum going against Halifax and on into the district playoffs.”