Big crowd sees Seals clamp down on Muhls

Mar. 8—SELINSGROVE — Ries Naugle had heard the cheers all season inside the Selinsgrove High School gymnasium — for his dunks and his 3-pointers.

Friday night in the opening round of the PIAA Class 5A playoffs, Naugle and his teammates got a standing ovation for their defense.

"It was super special for us," Naugle said. "We were clapping in our defense, and then the crowd got involved, too. It was a special moment."

Muhlenberg passed the ball without a shot for more than two minutes in the third quarter against Selinsgrove's zone defense bringing a shoulder-to-shoulder Seals crowd to its feet along with forcing nearly 20 turnovers, freshman Xaivier Jackson tied his career-high with 21 points, and Selinsgrove knocked off Muhlenberg, 57-49.

"We've had some really good defensive efforts in games, but that was definitely one of our best," Selinsgrove coach Justin Keiser said. "We got a little lazy late in the game on the ball, and let them get into the paint, but overall it was one of our best defensive efforts."

It was the Seals' first state playoff win since a 2001 victory over Nanticoke in the first round. Selinsgrove (18-7) advances to face District 7 runner-up Franklin Regional (24-3), a 68-53 winner over Warwick, on Tuesday in the second round at a site and time to be determined. The Muhls finish the season at 15-9.

Jackson knocked down a corner 3-pointer early in the third quarter to open a 12-point lead for the Seals, but Selinsgrove started to struggle mightly with Muhlenberg's pressure. The Seals turned the ball over on six of seven trips and missed a shot on the other. The Muhls scored 13 straight points, and when Jayden Kanter's acrobatic driving layup fell, Muhlenberg led 31-30 with 4:22 left in the third period.

"We knew they were going have a spark, a flame in their eyes in the second half," Naugle, who finished with 16 points, said. "We had to calm down, take control of the ball. I knew we had to get the ball into my hands against the press and get us into our offense."

However, it was the freshmen who righted the ship for the Seals. Luke Piecuch scored a layup off a Jackson steal, and another swipe led to a Naugle bucket. When Jace Diehl knocked down a foul shot on the next trip down the court, Selinsgrove held a 35-31 lead.

"At the beginning of the game, I was really nervous," Jackson, who also scored 21 points in a 72-52 win over rival Shikellamy on Jan. 10. "I think in the second quarter and the second half, I warmed up a little bit, and started taking the ball to the hoop."

After Diehl's foul shot, the Seals' defense didn't allow the Muhls a good shot for more than two minutes. The only downfall to the Seals zone was offensive rebounds, and the Muhls had 12 in the second half. Kanter scored on putbacks twice in the final minute to tie the game at 35-35, but Naugle's knifing drive with eight seconds left in the quarter would give the Selinsgrove a 37-35 lead heading to the fourth quarter, and an advantage they'd never relinquish.

Piecuch — seven points, four rebounds, four steals, three assists — scored inside, and Jackson converted on a drive to push the Seals lead to six early in the fourth quarter. It would take the Muhls nearly five minutes to cut the lead to two again as both teams struggled against each other's defensive pressure.

Gavin Bastian would stop a five-minute scoreless stretch for the Seals with a drive to the bucket to start an 8-1 run capped by Naugle's steal and slam dunk to give Selinsgrove a 49-40 lead.

The Muhls had one last gasp, getting back-to-back drives from Kanter to cut the lead to 49-44 with less than a minute to go, but Selinsgrove broke the Muhlenberg press for a Bastian bucket, and one final Naugle dunk on his home court to seal the game.





Muhlenberg (15-9) 49

Jayden Kanter 6 1-2 13; Kyle Archie 1 2-2 4; Sherman Killen 4 4-7 13; Alex Collado 4 4-8 14; Jeffrie Collado 2 0-0 4; Eli Hemmings 0 1-2 1. Totals 17 12-21 49.

3-point goals: A. Collado 2, Killen.

Did not score: Justin Armstrong, Drew LeClair, Juetz Martinez.

Selinsgrove (18-7) 57

Xaivier Jackson 6 8-11 21; Luke Piecuch 3 1-2 7; Ries Naugle 8 0-0 16; Jace Diehl 1 1-2 3; Gavin Bastian 3 2-6 8; Noah Walter 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 12-21 57.

3-point goals: Jackson.

Did not score: Griffin Parker.

Score by quarters

Muhlenberg;9;9;17;14 — 49

Selinsgrove;13;14;10;20 — 57