All Dressed up
Dressler’s 27 points lifts East Juniata
MIDDLEBURG–With Muncy threatening for the final spot in the district playoffs, East Juniata needed a win to stay in position to make the postseason. After the Tigers’ 51-49 win over Midd-West on Monday night, they finished the regular season 8-14, clinging on to one of the final spots in the District 4 Class 2A bracket.
The Mustangs had already clinched the eighth seed in District 4 Class 4A, so the loss to East Juniata did not hurt its playoff chances.
The Tigers got off to a blazing start, scoring 18 points in the first quarter. Xavier Clement scored the first three points for East Juniata, but after that, it was all Billy Dressler.
The junior forward scored the next 15 points in the first quarter for the Tigers, giving the visiting team an early 18-9 lead. Dressler was automatic from the floor, knocking down shots in the paint, a few steps behind the 3-point line, and everything in-between.
“He was unconscious. He hit everything he threw up,” East Juniata coach Chris Wolfkill said. “We rallied around that. We played better defense off of that, the kids were excited, the bench was excited, I was excited.”
Midd-West attempted to make adjustments mid-quarter to try to slow down Dressler’s onslaught of points. The Mustangs double-teamed and sent different defenders at Dressler, but he made tough shots and worked his way open.
“We knew that (Dressler) could shoot the basketball,” Midd-West coach Lance Adams said. “At times, I thought it looked like we were daring him to shoot the ball. We still played him tough and he still scored a lot of points.”
In the second quarter, the Midd-West defense stepped up and slowed down the Tigers’ attack, trying to get back in the game. Dressler again, was the entire East Juniata offense in the quarter as he scored all of the Tigers’ seven second-quarter points.
The Mustang’s fought back and trailed 25-20 going into the half behind baskets from Braedon Reid, Stefan Leitzel, Isaac Hummel and Hunter Wolfley.
With the Tigers’ not firing on all cylinders, they had to rely on Dressler, who scored 22 consecutive points for East Juniata in the first half.
Midd-West regrouped at the half and found a way to stop Dressler from single-handedly winning the game for East Juniata. The Mustangs continued their double-teams and forced the Tigers to move the ball every few seconds, which did not give Dressler time to make a play, resulting in just two third-quarter points from the forward.
The Mustangs, who held a clear height advantage with players like Leitzal and Hummel, started working the ball down in the paint. East Juniata watched as the Mustangs’ big men combined for 11 points in the third, which erased the Tigers’ lead.
“We started defending, first of all,” Adams said. “Offensively, I thought we got more movement. Stefan (Leitzel) was huge for us tonight both offensively and defensively. He was what was making us go tonight.”
Heading into the final quarter of play, the score was knotted up at 47 apiece.
Braedon Reid drilled a 3-pointer and converted an and-1 to give the Mustangs a 46-40 lead with just under four minutes of play.
But East Juniata responded with an Andrew Hunter 3-pointer before Dressler got fouled and was sent to the free throw line. After making the first, Dressler missed the second, but got his own rebound and sank a floater to tie the game at 46.
Evan Reichenbach and Clement each made two free throws to make it a two-possession game. Andrew Oldt hit a 3-pointer for the Mustangs and Connor Barth made a free throw, making the score 51-49 with seven seconds on the clock.
With their final attempt to salvage the win, Reid got an open look behind the arc but missed. Oldt got the offensive rebounds, but his putback missed just as the buzzer sounded.
A key for the Tigers in the victory was their clutch free-throw shooting. East Juniata made 8-of-10 free throws in the fourth quarter, which made the difference.
“At times, perhaps, we didn’t adjust very well,” Adams said. “We fouled 85 feet from the bucket and put their best (shooter), Dressler, on the line. Those are things you can’t do… just mistakes you cant make.”
Wolfkill was hopeful that the win would be enough to make the district playoff. Since other teams still have games to play, East Juniata’s postseason status is still unclear.
“Hopefully it did for the boys,” Wolfkill said about Monday night’s win getting them to the postseason. “We can get another game in and get experience under our belts for next year.”
East Juniata 51, Midd-West 49
Billy Dressler 9 5-9 27, Xavier Clement 2 2-2 7, Andrew Hunter 1 2-2 5, Tanner Barth 1 1-2 4, Evan Reichenbach 1 2-2 4, Brody Powell 2 0-0 4. Totals: 16 12-17 51.
3-point goals: Dressler 4, Hunter, Clement, Barth.
Did not score: Ethan Roe.
Braedon Reid 5 2-3 15, Stefan Leitzel 6 2-4 14, Isaac Hummel 4 3-5 11, Andrew Oldt 1 0-0 3, Hunter Wolfley 1 1-1 3, Cordell Hostetler 1 0-0 2, Carter Knepp 0 1-2 1. Totals: 18 9-15 49.
3-point goals: Reid 3, Oldt.
Did not score: Ethan Schlief, Riley Lantz.
Score by quarter:
East Juniata 18-7-9-17 51
Midd-West 9-11-14-15 49