Scoring drought dooms Indians in loss
MIFFLINTOWN– Out of the gates, Juniata seemed poised for an upset over a Halifax team that entered the game undefeated in Tri-Valley League play.
Both teams exchanged buckets in the first half, but a scoring run in the final minutes of the half, followed by a cold spell by the Indians to begin the second half doomed Juniata in a 58-41 loss in a conference boys basketball contest.
Halifax went on 11-4 run as Juniata (3-9, 2-4) trailed 28-23 at halftime. The Indians, though, mustered just three points on a bucket by Jacob Condo in the third quarter to give Halifax a 14-point advantage at the quarter’s end.
Halifax (9-3, 8-0) ran the floor extremely well, pushing the ball in transition to get easy looks under the basket and the Indians were unable to match their energy out of the locker room.
“Halifax is very athletic and is a very good team,” Juniata coach Al Ream said. “They came out in that third quarter and we didn’t match their intensity or their quickness up and down the court. That was the difference in the game.”
Juniata held a 14-13 lead with 6:14 left in the second quarter after Tylor Gomez hit a pair of free throws. A 3-pointer by Jamie Bailer with 4:19 left in the quarter gave Juniata a 19-15 lead. Devon Nealman was on in the first half, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the first and second quarters. The Indians hit seven threes on the night.
Halifax then began its game-changing run in the second quarter, as quick passing by the Wildcats led to multiple open looks from behind the arc. Trailing by one, Halifax’s Dylan Wills hit a corner three to grab a 20-19 lead. Wills later hit another 3-pointer and Landon Johnson added one to give the Wildcats a 28-20 lead with 1:02 left in the opening half.
The Wildcats never trailed again.
“I think we shot pretty well in the first half, we were down two possessions going into halftime,” Ream said. “We were in great position and then they came out with that intensity and we couldn’t match it. That cost us the game.”
Halifax was able to keep its lead thanks to a strong effort by Nathan Blasick, who took advantage of Juniata’s youth in the second half with Bryson Clark battling foul trouble. Blasick hit a bunch of jumpers from the free-throw line and continued to score at a rapid pace, finishing with a double-double for a game-high 19 points and 12 rebounds.
“He didn’t create a matchup issue for Bryson, but once we had to sub, he started to hurt us,” Ream said. “They are very good. They have played a lot of basketball together and that’s what makes them what they are. It’s what we need to get back to.”
Wills also played a key role on defense for the Wildcats, grabbing three steals and knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to finish with 17 points.
Juniata received strong nights from several role players including the bench, as Condo, Bailer and Tylor Gomez each put forth solid performances. The group combined for 24 points and Gomez grabbed six rebounds.
Overall, it was the 18 turnovers and the scoring drought of more than six minutes before Condo’s 3-pointer that killed Juniata down the stretch.
“We got a lot of good effort from the team and a good effort from the bench tonight,” Ream said. “We’re young. When we go to the bench, we go young. We are learning as we go, and we are working to get better. Everyone is working hard at practice and we are getting better. We will see what it carries us to at the end of the year.”
Juniata returns to action Saturday when it travels to Newport for another Tri-Valley League matchup.
Halifax 58, Juniata 41
Nathan Blasick 8 3-4 19, Dylan Wills 7 1-2 17, Clayton Paul 4 1-3 9, Logan Stiely 3 0-0 6, Landon Johnson 2 0-0 5, Caden Minnich 1 0-2 2. Totals: 25 5-11 58.
3-point goals: Wills, Johnson.
Did not score: Tyler Berzowski, Earl Stipe, Wyatt Miller, Caden Funk.
Devon Nealman 4 0-0 12, Jacob Condo 3 1-2 8, Jamie Bailer 3 0-0 8, Tylor Gomez 3 2-3 8, Bryson Clark 1 1-1 3, Manny O’Donnell 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 4-8 41.
3-point goals: Nealman 4, Bailer 2, Condo.
Did not score: Stuart Dare, Jon Elliott, Yaniel Ortiz.
Score by Quarters:
Halifax 9-19-12-18 — 58
Juniata 9-14-3-15 — 41