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The Rife stuff

Dribbling magic leads JB senior to winning shot

Dribbling magic leads JB senior to winning shot

March 10, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A storybook season for the James Buchanan boys basketball team just got a whole lot sweeter.

The Rockets claimed their biggest victory to date Friday in the most thrilling fashion possible. Shane Rife's layup at the buzzer gave James Buchanan a 60-58 victory over Communications Tech in a PIAA Class AAA first-round game inside a packed Chambersburg High School gym.

James Buchanan (24-4) called time after the Phoenix (18-7) - ranked fourth in Class AAA and the state runner-up last season - tied the game at 58 on Najee Edwards' drive and layup with 6.4 seconds left.

Out of the timeout, Brandon Bryan took the inbounds pass, dribbled his way out of trouble twice, then somehow spotted Rife near the basket. Rife turned baseline and got the shot out of his hands a fraction of a second before the buzzer sounded.

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"I saw an opening on the sideline, squeezed through that, then the double team came and I squeezed through that," said Bryan, who scored 18 points, including 14 in the second half. "I looked up at the clock and saw two seconds, and then I saw Shane."

"Words don't explain it," said Rife, who tried anyway. "I thought he was pulling up, and he hesitated, so I went to the basket. He made a great pass, and I had to finish it."

The last two of Rife's game-high 21 points sent James Buchanan's coaches, reserves and fans rushing onto the court in celebration, while Communications Tech coaches and players at first challenged that the shot came too late, then shook the Rockets' hands with shocked expressions.

Dion Lehman added 14 points for the Rockets, who made 22 of 34 shots (64.7 percent) to turn away Communications Tech, despite the Phoenix taking 27 more shots and turning the ball over just nine times while forcing 21 JB turnovers.

After both teams made 6 of 11 shots in the first quarter, Communications Tech managed to hit just 17 of 50 against the determined JB defense. The Rockets' never-say-die effort also led to a 28-24 edge on the glass.

"We felt that's what we had to do. We had to win the paint on both ends of the floor," JB coach Larry Strawoet said. "It was a great effort. ... We set the tone on the defensive end. That was the key."

Rife scored 11 points in the first quarter as the Rockets went to him early and often.

"When you score early, it's just natural to get more active," Rife said. "It helped me, and as a team we started rolling."

JB outscored Communications Tech 13-5 in the second quarter to take a 28-22 halftime lead. Lehman scored five points and Rife and Bryan each had four in the quarter, while the defense forced the Phoenix to miss 13 of 15 shots.

"We realized we belonged on the court with them," Rife said. "We belong with anyone in the state."

"We knew we could play with this team," Bryan said. "We knew we were better than them at the half. We just had to seal it."

Communications Tech kept battling and took its first lead of the second half with 4:30 left to play on Chris Jones' putback. Bryan answered with a transition jumper in the lane and followed with two free throws on the next possession, before Lehman drove the baseline for a bucket and a 55-50 lead with 1:37 left.

Two more made free throws by Bryan at the 1:11 mark gave the Rockets a 58-53 lead. Antonio Monroe answered with a 3-pointer 10 seconds later, and after a timeout, JB turned the ball over with 31.6 seconds to play, setting up Edwards for his game-tying play - which the Rockets topped.

James Buchanan, playing in its first state tournament since 1991, moves on to play Crestwood on Tuesday in the second round.

"The final chapter hasn't been written yet," Strawoet said. "There's a lot more to be played."

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