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Fort Hill finds ways to fill in for Blank

January 23, 2007|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

WILLIAMSPORT - With Fort Hill forward Zach Blank missing his first action of the season with an ankle injury, it seemed the inside game would be wide open for 6-foot-4 senior Will Taylor and the Williamsport boys basketball team on Monday night.

But Taylor was shadowed by one of Blank's replacements - 6-3 Anthony Weisenmiller - and was held to just one first-half basket. By the time he surged in the third quarter, the Wildcats couldn't get over the hump as they fell 59-45 to the Sentinels, snapping a six-game winning streak.

"Our game plan is always to go inside to Will, but their No. 41, Weisenmiller, did a good job of keeping him away from the basket," said Williamsport coach Scott Mowbray. "It was like him hitting a brick wall out there."

Fort Hill inched ahead to a 6-4 lead after a slow first quarter.

Williamsport (9-3) pulled into a 9-9 tie on a basket by Taylor with 6:41 left in the half, before picking up his second foul 37 seconds later for the majority of the time before the intermission. Taylor managed to make a late appearance, feeding Chad Poffenberger for a basket.

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Fort Hill (12-2) got 11 points from Jordan Brooks in the period and opened a 29-21 halftime lead. Brooks finished with a game-high 30 points.

"Without (Blank) we relied heavily on our guards," said Fort Hill coach Tedd Eirich. "Of course, Jordan had another big game and we pretty much challenged everyone to contribute. Our inside guys did a good job on Taylor - until the third quarter."

Fort Hill remained in control through the first five minutes of the third quarter and opened up a 37-24 lead on a pair of Brooks free throws with 2:51 remaining. But in the span of 58 seconds, Williamsport made its run using energy and intensity that had been lacking.

Taylor took a pass from Poffenberger along the right baseline and used the glass for his second basket of the game. On the next possession, Poffenberger again passed underneath to Taylor, who scored while being fouled for a 3-point play to cut the deficit to 37-29.

Another conventional 3-point play by Taylor on an offensive rebound closed the gap to five points. Taylor had a monster block on Jordan Helmick and Sean Dixon stole an inbounds pass to help fuel the run.

"We went to a zone because we got into foul trouble and then it was big play, big play, big play, and they were right back in it," Eirich said.

The Wildcats had a chance to cut even further into the lead, but they missed five free throws in the third quarter - four when they made their run - and still trailed 41-36 going into the fourth quarter. Taylor scored 10 of his team-high 16 in the third quarter.

"We didn't get (Taylor) the ball in the right place, and when we did, it was too late," Mowbray said. "He got some offensive rebounds, which is something he does really well, and was able to convert."

Poffenberger, who finished with 14 points, hit a pair of free throws to open the final period and cut it to 41-38 - the closest the Wildcats were since 5:45 remained in the second quarter.

But Fort Hill regrouped after Brooks outjumped everyone for a 16-footer, followed by a 3 by Steve Iser, to up the lead to 46-38. The Sentinels' lead fell below six points as they hit 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch to close out the win.

"Our execution wasn't very good tonight. Mentally and emotionally we just weren't there," Mowbray said. "We just weren't in sync and I don't know why."

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