Devils get their due in Capital

February 01, 2006|By BOB PARASILITI

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - By midway through the third quarter, the Greencastle-Antrim boys basketball team was down to two options.

"When we were down 10 points, it was put up or shut up," Blue Devils coach Garon Gembe said.

The Blue Devils did the former so they didn't have to face the latter.

At the time, Greencastle was speechless, down 43-33 with 12 minutes, 16 seconds left to play. By the end, they walked the walk needed to talk the talk.

The No. 6 Blue Devils took control with patient play and stronger defense to turn the tables on No. 4 James Buchanan to pull out a 60-59 victory Tuesday in a showdown for the upper hand of the Mid-Penn Capital title chase and position in the conference tournament.


"I think the key was how we ended the third quarter," Gembe said. "We were down 10 and could have folded, but we got it to four points by the end of the quarter. Four points in the fourth quarter is anybody's game and we got the stops."

Greencastle (16-3, 8-1) ended the Rockets' 11-game winning streak by forcing the turnovers it was guilty of in the first half. The Blue Devils also compensated for JB's aggressive defense around the 3-point arc to come through the backdoor for layups.

The Blue Devils used a 7-0 run in the final 1:20 of the third quarter, geared by a 3-pointer and a pair of foul shots by Jaren Gembe, who finished with 20 points. The 10-point deficit was down to 46-42 with eight minutes remaining.

Gembe's rebound and putback with 5:55 remaining tied the game at 46-46. Greencastle's defense forced James Buchanan into turnovers and last-option forced shots that only added to the problems. It translated to a 58-51 lead with 1:05 remaining.

"It was a carbon copy of the first game," said James Buchanan coach Larry Strawoet said. "In the end they executed and we didn't. We didn't take care of the ball. This time, they came out on top. They created turnovers and finished the game."

The game was a rematch of Jan. 6's 63-54 overtime victory by the Rockets. The circumstances were basically the same, but Greencastle became unraveled in the end. That win was the fourth in JB's 11-game streak and was the Blue Devils' last loss before their current eight-game run.

The two teams have shadowed each other ever since looking for top-seeding positions and home games in the upcoming Mid-Penn tournament. If Greencastle can beat Scotland on Friday, it will seal the regular-season title and the home-court advantage.

"That wasn't a priority at the beginning of the season, but now we are in the situation," Garon Gembe said. "Now, if we win on Friday, we'll get the home game. We have to finish it."

Much like the Blue Devils did on Tuesday.

James Buchanan (16-4, 7-2) pressured Greencastle along the perimeter to limit 3-point attempts while picking off long passes to take early control.

The two teams battled through seven ties and six lead changes in the first half until the Rockets used a 6-2 run in the final 3:30 before halftime to take a 33-29 lead. Brandon Bryan hit a 3-pointer as part of his game-high 21 points and Dion Lehman hit a drive and 1 of 2 foul shots to give JB the advantage.

The Rockets hit the first six points of the third quarter, capped by a Lehman steal and layup, to move to 39-29 with 6:00 remaining in the third quarter. Bryan hit two technical foul shots to give JB the 43-33 lead and the ball with 4:16 left in the period.

The Rockets turned the ball over and the slide began.

"We forced some shots," Strawoet said. "We weren't able to pound the ball into (Shane Rife) and we started forcing shots. The lesson we take away from today is that we have to work as a team and play defense. We'll go back and work on that. We still have a lot of things ahead."

JB tried to close the gap in the final seconds, getting 3s by Bryan and Lehman to move within 59-57 with 20 seconds remaining. Jordan Gembe hit a free throw with 17 seconds remaining, allowing the Blue Devils to withstand two errant 3-point attempts before Shase Hollenshead hit a putback with 3 seconds remaining.

JB was out of timeouts and Greencastle never had to inbound the ball before the end of the game. Cory Briggs and Ty Thrush finished with 10 points each for Greencastle, while Rife had 13 and Lehman added 11 for JB.

"We had to pick it up a notch," Garon Gembe said. "The last time we played, we felt like we played well for three quarters and didn't finish it out. We did it today."

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