Indians push past Wildcats in thriller
Free-throws seal victory for Juniata
MILLERSTOWN — With nine seconds left and the game hanging in the balance, Juniata senior Jamie Bailer drained two crucial free throws to clinch a 37-35 victory over Greenwood in their TVL opener.
Bailer’s pair from the stripe upped the Indian advantage four points, dashing Greenwood’s hope of victory in the tightly contested game.
“He is our senior leader. He is the guy we want to see at the line,” said Indians’ coach Al Ream. “He said ‘I should have made all five of those’ (he missed two earlier in the quarter), but he stroked them when he had to ice the game.”
Greenwood coach Troy Gantt had a lot of respect for the effort of his opposition.
“Juniata showed a lot of grit to come in here and beat us in a hard fought game, where every possession mattered,” he said.
While Bailer led the team with 10 points, junior Emmanuel O’Donell was a dominant force inside-pulling down a dozen rebounds, scoring eight and blocking a pair of shots.
Jace White also had a solid performance delivering nine points and five boards, while Jacob Condo contributed seven points and six rebounds.
“Our success is predicated on team effort and team togetherness and tonight we had that happen,” Ream said. “Everybody contributed. Guys coming off the bench contributed in positive ways.”
Sophomore Yadiel Ortiz secured three boards and two steals.
Early on Juniata was in command as it built a 9-2 lead after one quarter. O’Donell scored four and collected five boards in the frame to pace the attack.
The Wildcats clawed their way back with a 7-0 run to start the second quarter. Freshman Tyler Sherman, who produced seven points off the Wildcats’ bench, nailed a 3-ball to pull within 9-7. Avery Morder (six points, three steals, two boards) picked an Indian’s pocket leading to a run-out basket to tie the game at 9-9.
Bailer then drained a trifecta to put Juniata back in front 12-9.
An Aaron Bollinger basket cut the lead to 12-11, but Condo countered for a 14-11 advantage.
However, Greenwood scored the last four points of the half. First Michael Strohm (five points) drained an old school hook shot, and Sherman connected on a jumper to give the Wildcats a 15-14 edge at the break.
“I think we had some early jitters,” Gantt said. “We worked back and got it even. Maybe you extend a lot of energy to get back in the game. I don’t know if that was a factor or not.”
Greenwood shot just 1-of-12 in the first quarter, but connected on 13-of-26 field goal attempts the rest of the way.
The lead volleyed back-and-forth three times early in the third quarter as both offenses found their grooves.
White was the Indians catalyst as he scored eight in the frame, while Bollinger, who led Greenwood with 11 points and nine boards, tallied seven in the quarter, including a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to even things up at 29-29.
Both offenses went cold in the fourth, shooting a combined 4-for-19 from the floor. A Bailer basket and a White free-throw gave Juniata a 32-31 advantage which would hold for several minutes. A pair of Thomas Pyle (six points, three rebounds and steals) accounted for the early Wildcats points in the frame.
An O’Donell layup at the end of a possession extended by several offensive rebounds (the Indians won the boards 31-23) put the visitors up 34-31 with 1:07 to go.
However, Bollinger countered at the other end to cut the margin to 34-33.
Bailer then missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Bollinger had an opportunity to put Greenwood back on top, but his jumper was short. He then made three-of-four free throws down the stretch to close out the Wildcats. Sherman added a putback bucket at the buzzer to account for the 37-35 final.
“You can’t fault our guys’ effort,” Gantt said. “They competed the entire time. I would like to see us shot and rebound a little bit better, but the effort was there.”
Ream appreciated the way his team closed down the stretch.
“(After the early runs) this was a nip-and-tuck basketball game between two good basketball teams, with kids giving everything they had on both ends of the floor,” he said.
Juniata 37, Greenwood 35
Jamie Bailer 2 5-7 10, Emanuel O’Donell 4 0-0 8, Jace White 4 1-2 9, Jacob Condo 3 0-1 7, Max Lauver 1 0-0 3. Totals 14 6-10 37.
3 point goals: Jaime Bailer, Jacob Condo, Max Lauver.
Did not score: Yadiel Ortiz, Christian Ortiz, Jeff Zimmerman.
Aaron Bollinger 5 0-0 11, Tyler Sherman 3 0-0 7, Avery Morder 3 0-1 6, Thomas Pyle 2 2-2 6, Michael Strohm1 3-4 5. Totals 14 5-7 35.
3 point goals: Aaron Bollinger, Tyler Sherman.
Did not score: Steven Watts, Brennan Miller.
Score by quarters