Lauver scores 1,000th point as Juniata boys head to final
MIFFLINTOWN — If someone had told Juniata coach Al Ream that two players would have all of the Indians’ points for the first 28 minutes Tuesday night, he would know exactly who they were.
He would also feel confident in the team’s chances to come out with a win.
That’s exactly what happened as Ben Lauver and Bryson Clark led Juniata in the defeat of Greenwood, 44-33, in a Tri-Valley League boys basketball playoff semifinal.
“I would (feel confident). All season long they’ve been the two that led us,” Ream said. “I would have felt confident at any point of the game with the ball in their hands. I would like to disperse the ball, but sometimes you have to go to your go-to guys.”
Juniata (17-6, 12-2) plays Halifax in the TVL championship Thursday at Susquenita. Halifax defeated Lancaster Country Day 48-29 to setup its meeting with the Indians.
Lauver had himself a night to remember, finishing with a game-high 22 points for the Indians, but no points were more meaningful than his second to last field goal of the contest.
It was an ordinary two-point shot that came in the midst of a much-needed run for the Indians, but it was a far from the ordinary basket as it put him in Juniata’s history book with his 1,000th career point.
“It’s definitely a big accomplishment,” Lauver said. “I have to thank my teammates, coaches and family because I couldn’t be anywhere near this without them.”
Officials were looking to do the typical thing when such an accomplishment is achieved by pausing the game to honor Lauver.
That is until Lauver motioned to Ream that he didn’t want such because the Indians were finally getting the separation they needed to put the game on ice.
“At the time, I wasn’t trying to think about it. I was trying to think about everything else and help us win the game, that’s all I was worried about,” Lauver said. “I told (Ream) that I didn’t want any attention during the game because it wasn’t really about me at that point in the time and just wanted to keep playing.”
Not a bad decision because Juniata put together a 10-2 stretch to give itself a 13-point lead — its largest of the contest.
It was a critical turning point in the game because the Wildcats didn’t make life easy for the Indians in the second and third quarters.
Greenwood closed to within a point on four separate occasions but just couldn’t get the field goal or free throw that would tie or give the Wildcats the lead. In fact, Greenwood never had a share of the lead at any point in the game thanks in large to Juniata’s 11-0 run to open the contest.
“I think we ran out of gas there a little bit toward the end,” Greenwood coach Kent Houser said. “We then got hammered on the boards and couldn’t handle it and that gave them second and third shots. We can’t afford to do that, but really the biggest difference of the game was right off the bat to begin the game, we got down 14-2 and that evens out to a 44-point game. That’s really a lot to come back from.”
The Indians could thank Clark for such a great start, scoring 12 first-half points — nine from beyond the arc. He finished with 17 points.
He and Lauver accounted for every point until Devon Nealman drained a 3-pointer with just a few seconds shy of six minutes left in the game’s entirety.
The Wildcats biggest contributors were Austin Bower and Aaron Morder, who dominated the boards for much of the middle quarters and combined to score 25 points.
Houser joked the team’s spark was more of a do-or-die situation.
“I think at that point, it’s just desperation,” he said. “We had to get out there and try a few things and were lucky enough they worked particularly in the third quarter. It was when we took Austin out to get a breather that we fell behind again and then we couldn’t convert when he had the ball.”
Morder had a team-high 13 points while Bower finished with 12, respectively.
Greenwood (14-9, 9-5) travels to West Shore Christian Feb. 22 in the opening round of the District 3 Class A playoffs.
As for Juniata, Ream is hoping the team takes away the good from the win but cleans up everything before Thursday’s game.
“I think the kids played well tonight. They played hard because we had to because Greenwood’s a good team. They’re always going to come after you and they did just that tonight,” he said. “We have to learn from this and move forward by working on all aspects of the game and continue to get better.”
Juniata 44, Greenwood 33
Luke Myers 2 0-2 5, Aaron Morder 6 1-4 13, Garrett Howell 0 1-2 1, Ben Strawser 1 0-0 2, Austin Bower 4 4-4 12. Totals: 14 6-12 33.
3-point goals: Luke Myers.
Did not score: Andrew Loy, Aaron Bollinger.
Devon Nealman 1 0-0 3, Bryce Leonard 0 2-2 2, Ben Lauver 9 1-4 22, Bryson Clark 6 2-3 17. Totals: 16 5-9 44.
3-point goals: Nealman, Lauver 3, Clark 3.
Did not score: Jamie Bailer, Tylor Gomez, Jon Elliott.
Score by quarters
Greenwood 9-7-10-7 — 33
Juniata 14-7-10-13 — 44