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Rockets have a blast while holding off Trojans

February 03, 2007|by TIM KOELBLE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - The week turned out to be the best of the season thus far for the James Buchanan boys basketball team.

After clinching its first Mid-Penn Capital Division regular-season title since 2000 on Tuesday with a win over Big Spring, the Rockets came back with what many thought wouldn't happen - a victory over Chambersburg.

When Jamill Whitehead's 3-point shot bounced off the back of the rim with two seconds remaining, No. 4 James Buchanan had edged No. 1 Chambersburg 52-49 on Friday in front of a raucous and frenzied crowd.

"I can't tell you the words to describe (the win)," said JB coach Larry Strawoet after watching his team nearly lose an 11-point lead in the final period, only to be saved by senior guard Brandon Bryan down the stretch.

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"Bryan did what he had to do tonight to lead us," said Strawoet. "And wasn't he cool at the line?"

The Rockets (18-3) fueled the Trojans' comeback with six turnovers in seven possessions. Chambersburg (16-4) took advantage of the mistakes to cut a 44-33 deficit to 46-44 after Whitehead nailed a 3-pointer with 1:21 to play.

The Rockets' Shane Rife was fouled while following his own miss and hit two free throws for a 48-44 lead.

After Whitehead drained another trey for the Trojans, Bryan followed with a clutch 1-and-1 with 24 seconds remaining for a 50-47 lead.

Aaron Hill scored on a layup for the Trojans, who immediately fouled Bryan following a timeout, He answered the challenge by hitting both ends of a 1-and-1 for the 52-49 lead.

The Trojans went the length of the floor in eight seconds, giving Whitehead a clean look from the left wing on his final, game-tying effort.

"Based on how he was hitting (the 3s), that's the guy you want to take that kind of shot," said Chambersburg coach Shawn Shreffler.

"We knew it would be a physical game with (Chambersburg), and man, you got tired out there," said Bryan. "And it drained you out. It was so warm in there."

Bryan finished with a game-high 18 points, putting him at 995 in his career. Rife added 12 points and a team-high 10 rebounds as the Rockets held the upper hand on the boards, 30-22.

"We had about 10 rebounds less than our average and we just didn't get after the loose balls," said Shreffler.

James Buchanan led the entire first half until Zach Frelin buried a trey at the buzzer to give the Trojans a 22-21 lead.

Rife, playing with three personal fouls for much of the second half, scored on a bucket to let the Rockets regain the lead at 29-28 with 4:30 to go.

While Bryan netted eight of his points in the last eight minutes, Evan Angle and Macke Hall were instrumental picking up the slack with Josh McCauley missing the game due to an injury.

Angle had four of his 11 points to open the last period and help extend JB's lead to 11. Hall, who scored four, was solid on defense.

"It doesn't always show in the scorebook with those kind of kids, but Angle and Hall really played well for us," said Strawoet.

Whitehead's 18 points off the bench kept the Trojans in contention.

Chambersburg's one-two scoring punch of Armond Perez and DeVont Merritt were held in check, each scoring six points.

"Maybe this will awake the team and realize what still has to be done," said Shreffler, who must find a pulse immediately with a game tonight against Williamsport, Pa. "This was a playoff atmosphere tonight and we didn't get the job done."

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