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Tigers use late heroics to top Canton

Sentinel photo by CHRIS MANNING
East Juniata’s Tanner Barth (2) looks for an open teammate as East Juniata’s Wayne Dressler (30) looks on. The Tigers defeated Canton, 52-51 in a District 4 Class 2A Quarterfinal game Wednesday.

CANTON — With the season hanging in the balance on the final possession, everything had come down to one inbounds play. Tigers coach Justin Hazel knew exactly what to call.

“It’s a play we put in in the middle of the year and we’ve had good success with it,” Hazel said.

It worked for them one more time. With 3.4 seconds left and trailing 51-50, A Wayne Dressler screen freed up Tanner Barth on the right low block and Ethan Roe found him for a bucket and the foul with just 1.4 seconds remaining in the game as East Juniata pulled the upset, 52-51 over the Warriors Tuesday night in Canton.

“The play was for a cross screen for me and Wayne (Dressler) dropped my guy and I got it and knew I had to finish,” Barth said.

Barth’s shot hit the rim and hung on the iron for a split second before dropping in, adding to the drama of a back-and-forth ballgame all night.

“I just hoped to God it went in, “Barth said. “I did not want to shoot two free throws.”

East Juniata came out of the gates running its offense to perfection. The Tigers patience and hot shooting allowed them to get whatever they wanted in the first frame as they jumped out to a 19-9 lead.

Canton made some great hustle plays in the second quarter, as a Cooper Kitchen runout bucket and foul and a fantastic save for a layup by Cameron Bellows helped cut the Tiger lead to 23-18 at half, a deficit that, given how they played, Canton felt fortunate to have be that small.

“The shots weren’t falling,” Canton acting coach Jimmy Williams said about the first half. “Their zone bottled us up.”

The shots did fall for Canton in the third quarter as their 22 third quarter points were highlighted by a furious 10 from Weston Bellows in the last three minutes of the quarter. The Warriors grabbed a 40-35 lead. And, when they made the first two baskets of the fourth quarter to extend their lead to nine, it looked like Canton would be the ones advancing.

East Juniata 1,000-point scorer Wayne Dressler had other ideas. Dressler scored 10 of his 15 points in that last quarter. It was how he scored them that stood out. A put-back here, a steal after a Canton defensive rebound there, and all of a sudden Dressler had brought the Tigers all the way back. When he hit a face-up three from the left wing with 57.9 seconds left to play, the Tigers led 50-49.

Canton got their own great execution on a baseline out-of-bounds play. After a foul on a Cooper Kitchen drive was deemed to be not in the act of shooting, Canton hit a similar play to the one that would doom them just a possession later as Dane Williams got open on the right doorstep, missed his first attempt, but got his own miss and put it in wih 38 seconds to play, setting up the fantastic finish.

East Juniata will host Sayre Saturday in the Class 2A semifinals, as Sayre upset top-seeded Muncy, 61-55 on Wednesday night.

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