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Bryan lifts J. Buchanan in final seconds

March 18, 2007|by DAN KAUFFMAN

ENOLA, Pa. - About 15 minutes before Saturday's PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal game between James Buchanan and Springfield of Delaware County tipped off at East Pennsboro High School, Greencastle-Antrim's victory over West York was announced over the public address system.

It was the dream scenario for the Rockets - with one more win, they'd have a chance to play the Blue Devils, their Mid-Penn Capital rivals, on Tuesday in the state semifinals.

Thanks to the cool hand of Brandon Bryan, James Buchanan made the dream a reality.

Bryan made Springfield's rally from 13 points down in the second half moot by sinking a pair of free throws with 8.6 seconds left, and Frank McKnight missed a 16-foot jump shot at the buzzer, giving the Rockets a 57-56 victory and setting up arguably the biggest basketball game in the history of Franklin County.

"That's just wonderful for our district, our county and our league," Rockets coach Larry Strawoet said. "A lot of people don't have a lot of respect for us, but we can play some ball down in farm country."

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Bryan scored 23 points for James Buchanan (26-4) and made all 10 of his foul shots.

"I'm a pretty confident free-throw shooter," Bryan said. "I've hit some clutch free throws before, and I had all the confidence in the world."

"Brandon has thrived for the last couple of years on that NCAA song, 'One Shining Moment,'" Strawoet said. "That was a fitting spot for him, to hit those free throws and send us on."

After an evenly played first quarter, the Rockets used a 10-0 run in the second quarter to take a 19-12 lead and carried the momentum into halftime up, 29-20. Shane Rife made four free throws and a jumper from the foul line, Bryan made two free throws and Josh McCauley scored his only basket of the game in the run.

Rife scored 12 of his 20 points in the first half - including a rare 3-pointer - and Bryan added 13 in the first half.

"We wanted to work inside-out," Rife said. "Whenever we can do that, it's beneficial."

James Buchanan extended the lead to 13 twice in the third quarter. Rife and Evan Angle opened the second half with baskets to make it 33-20. Later, a 5-0 Rockets run on a Rife free throw and baskets by Dion Lehman and Angle made it 40-27 with 3:28 left in the quarter.

That's when Springfield (22-8) turned their outside shooting up a notch. The Cougars made six of their 11 3-pointers in the final 10:10. Kory Chester's 3 with four minutes to play tied the game at 51.

"I think we were just trying to play to survive instead of playing to win, and we got a little tight," Strawoet said.

Bryan's jumper from the right wing with 3:44 left gave the Rockets a 53-51 lead, and neither team scored again until Bryan made both ends of a 1-and-1 with 1:17 left to make it 55-51.

Chris VonTanhousen answered with the last of his six 3s at the 1:08 mark to cut the lead to 55-54, then he stole the ball from JB, leading to McKnight making two free throws with 50 seconds left as the Cougars took their first lead since early in the second quarter.

VonTanhousen scored a game-high 27 points and McKnight added 19 for Springfield.

The Rockets turned the ball over again with 40 seconds left, but McKnight missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 28.8 seconds left, setting up JB's final possession.

After a Rockets timeout with 19.3 seconds left, Bryan made a 1-on-1 move to the foul line and worked free for a jumper, missing the shot but drawing the foul. He calmly sank both to regain the lead.

"We got up and then faced some adversity, but our kids never give up," Strawoet said. "These kids are like the Cardiac Kids. There's no denying them in cases. There's no 'no' in their vocabulary."

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