Wellsboro guard Matt Reese might not be running many suicides at the next practice.
Coach Todd Outman says for every charge drawn, that is one less suicide a player has to run at the next practice. Reese drew three charges Thursday at the Montoursville Tournament, symbolizing his all-around toughness. Wellsboro needed all of that last night too as Reese helped it rally past, then hold off Montoursville, 60-52. Reese did the dirty work well throughout, scoring nine points, grabbing five rebounds, dealing five assists and adding two steals.
Reese's performance and Jordan Jackson's clutch fourth-quarter foul shooting earned Wellsboro (8-0) a spot in tonight's championship against Lewisburg, a 67-28 winner over Jersey Shore in the night's first game. It is a showdown of unbeatens who are a combined 14-0.
Pierce Ranck of Montoursville is defended by Kieron Smethers of Wellsboro Thursday night at Montoursville
"We lacked intensity the whole game but picked it up when we needed to," Reese said. "Hopefully we play that way for all four quarters (tonight)."
Lewisburg (6-0) looked dominant against Jersey Shore, playing well in all facets while hitting 18 of 28 first-half shots. The Green Dragons led by 28 at halftime.
"We were really up for the game," center Erich Kline said. "We were definitely ready."
So was Montoursville.
Many expected Wellsboro to cruise into the final, especially after it made its first seven shots and took a 12-point first-quarter lead. Instead, the Warriors played one of their best all-around games, pulled within one by halftime and took a five-point third-quarter lead. They want more than moral victories, but showed against one of District 4's premier teams why they could be a playoff sleeper if they qualify.
Pierce Ranck recorded his third straight 20-point game, scoring 20 and grabbing nine rebounds. Jalile Best played his best game this season, scoring a career-high 14 points and adding nine rebounds. The Warriors also cut a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to five twice and showed they have a lot of upside.
"I think they came in and saw we were 2-4 and expected a cakewalk," Montoursville coach Mark Molesky said. "They got off to a great start, but the kids responded well and played hard. I was really pleased with the effort and the attitude."
Wellsboro showed some resolve too, going on an 18-1 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters and turned a five-point deficit into a 12-point lead. The run took only six minutes but those six minutes ultimately determined the game's outcome.
The Hornets came from behind in the second half for a third time and forced eight turnovers during that pivotal run, making four straight steals at one point. Reese made two straight steals and scored on layups both times, putting Wellsboro ahead, 50-38 with 4:30 remaining.
"(At halftime) coach told us we weren't playing well and we had to pick up the defensive intensity," Reese said. "He told us our defense leads to our offense. We've played that way all year and that's what happened."
Montoursville did not go away and Ranck twice scored inside to make it a five-point game, the last time with 1:10 remaining. Jackson, though, made five straight foul shots in the game's last 80 seconds and prevented Montoursville from coming all the way back. He finished with 14 points and five steals while Mike Pietropola (12) and Joey Doganiero (11) scored most of the points during the 18-1 run. Dylan Prough added nine points and seven rebounds.
"The kids played really hard, but we have to eliminate those three-minute spurts where we turn the ball over and hurt ourselves," Molesky said. "It's coming, though. It was a great game for us."
Lewisburg played great all night as all five starters scored less than two minutes into the game. The Dragons displayed a terrific inside-outside game, played stifling defense and moved the ball well, setting each other up for good shots. Matt Fedorajka put an exclamation on the first-half performance, hitting a near half-court buzzer-beater to end it.
Travis Conrad scored 18 points and hit 7 of 10 shots while Kline had 14 points and nine rebounds. Jesse Flannery had nine assists, six which came in the first quarter and Nick Costigliola was one of many strong reserves who played, scoring eight points and making all four of his shots.
"I was worried about the layoff we had but we had a good practice (Wednesday), came out focused and it showed. They executed very well on the offensive and defensive ends," Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. "They let everything develop. When the outside shot was there they took it, our bigs finished inside and they made that extra pass."
This is the first time in the 21st century that the championship will feature two undefeated teams. Both are AA district title contenders too so tonight's game could be a playoff preview.
"It will be awesome," Kline said. "It should be a lot of fun."
Lewisburg 67, Jersey Shore 28
JERSEY SHORE (28)
Eric Huling 1 1-2 3, Tyler Foulkrod 2 0-1 5, Zach Miller 2 0-0 5, Brody Smith 2 0-2 5, Jeff Dincher 2 0-1 4, Clay Newton 1 0-0 2, Cody Confair 2 0-0 4. Totals 12 1-6 28.
Travis Conrad 7 1-1 18, Erich Kline 4 6-8 14, Mike Driscoll 2 0-0 4, Sam Allen 4 0-0 8, Jesse Flannery 1 0-1 2, Nick Costigliola 4 0-0 8, Matt Fedorjaka 2 2-2 7, Drew Newcomb 0 2-2 2, Will Sigl 2 0-0 4, Tanner Host 0 0-2 0. Totals 26 11-16 67.
Jersey Shore11 5 8 4-28
Lewisburg21 23 15 8-67
3-pointers: Jersey Shore 3 (Foulkrod, Miller, Smith); Lewisburg 4 (Conrad 3, Fedorajka).
Records: Lewisburg 6-0. Jersey Shore 2-4.
Wellsboro 60, Montoursville 52
Jordan Jackson 3 8-10 14, Dylan Prough 4 1-3 9, Kieron Smethers 2 1-4 5, Joey Doganiero 4 2-3 11, Matt Reese 4 0-3 9, Mike Pietropola 4 2-2 12. Totals 21 14-26 60.
Pierce Ranck 7 6-10 20, Zach Pepperman 2 2-2 7, Quintin Persun 3 0-0 6, Sean O'Malley 0 0-0 0, Jalile Best 5 3-4 14, Derrick Evans 0 0-2 0, Quintin Helm 1 1-1 3, Jim McMahon 1 0-1 2, Curtis Miller 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 12-20 52.
Wellsboro20 8 12 20-60
Montoursville13 14 11 14-52
3-pointers: Wellsboro 4 (Pietropola 2, Doganiero, Reese); Montoursville 2 (Pepperman, Best).
Records: Wellsboro 8-0. Montoursville 2-4.