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Green Dragons rally for state playoff berth

Mar. 1—LEWISBURG — Friday night's District 4 Class 4A consolation game was a microcosm of the Lewisburg boys basketball season.

It was a struggle for most of 3 1/2 quarters for the Green Dragons, but they played their best basketball at the end. Now, the under-.500 squad is headed for its third-straight state tournament after a 35-34 victory over Central Columbia, surviving two missed foul shots with 2.2 seconds left in regulation at Phil Lockcuff Memorial Gymnasium at Shikellamy High School.

"To watch us come back the way we did, it was awesome," Lewisburg first-year coach Leon Tucker said. "We mirror each other in the way we play, so we knew it was going to be a battle."

The Green Dragons won just six games during the regular season, but they held their own in close losses to Troy, Southern Columbia, Central Mountain, as well as two tight ones to Central Columbia, Tucker's alma mater.

"When you play a team like this three times — they know all your plays, you know all their plays — it just comes down to who has more heart," Lewisburg senior Noah Pawling said.

After scoring just 16 points in the second half of its semifinal loss to Danville, Lewisburg struggled offensively to start Friday's game. The Green Dragons missed their first 10 shots before Quin Michaels made a putback early in the second quarter, and the Blue Jays opened an 18-4 lead with 2:51 left in the first half.

Perhaps the most important stretch of the game came in the final moments of the first half. The Blue Jays missed a couple of quick shots, and Lewisburg was able to score six in a row to pull within 18-10 at halftime.

That's when the Green Dragons went into the post, taking advantage of their size in Neyshawn Mabry, Jack Blough and Nazir Meredith. Lewisburg would get to the foul line eight times in the third quarter, and they got within 25-21 on a Meredith foul shot with 37 seconds left in the period.

The Blue Jays seemed to right the ship when Jackson Gump — who finished with a game-high 15 points — knocked down a 3-pointer with 5:32 left in the game. It bumped the Central Columbia lead to 30-25.

Tai Britto answered with a 3-pointer from the right corner with 4:25 left. Then Blough, who had missed his previous four foul shots in the game, knocked down a pair with 3:57 left to tie the game at 30.

Cam Humphries, who hit the go-ahead bucket in the final 30 seconds for the Blue Jays in a 49-47 win at Lewisburg on Jan. 19, gave Central Columbia the lead again with a bucket at the 2:37 mark. Meredith scored inside to knot the score.

Lewisburg's bench of Meredith, Britto and Michaels combined to score 23 of the team's 35 points.

With 1:32 left, Britto found Blough cutting to the hoop for a layup and a 34-32 Lewisburg lead. Gideon Vonderheid followed by sinking one of two foul shots for a 35-32 lead with 53.5 seconds left.

With the Green Dragons making sure Central didn't get a good look at a 3-pointer, Humphries shook loose on a back-door cut to cut the margin to 35-34 with 41.2 seconds to play.

The Green Dragons missed a jumper with 28 seconds left, and the Blue Jays held for a final shot. Kemp Bowman drove to the bucket, and Mabry blocked the shot but was whistled for a body foul with 2.2 seconds left. Bowman missed both foul shots, and Mabry pulled his ninth rebound in the game to seal the victory.

Lewisburg (8-17) earned a date with District 6 champion Johnstown (21-4) on Friday in the opening round of the PIAA playoffs.

Michaels had 10 points to lead Lewisburg, while Meredith chipped in seven. Blough finished with six points and nine rebounds.

After the Blue Jays outrebounded Lewisburg by one in the first half, the Green Dragons had a 21-12 advantage on the glass in the second half.

The Blue Jays end their season at 14-11.

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DISTRICT 4 CLASS 4A BOYS BASKETBALL

THIRD-PLACE GAME

at Phil Lockcuff Memorial Gymnasium, Shikellamy H.S.

LEWISBURG 35, CENTRAL COLUMBIA 34

Lewisburg (8-17) 35

Gideon Vonderheid 0 1-2 1; Noah Pawling 1 0-0 2; Jack Blough 2 2-6 6; Neyshawn Mabry 0 3-4 3; Nazir Meredith 3 1-2 7; Tai Britto 1 3-4 6; Quin Michaels 4 1-2 10. Totals 11 11-20 35.

3-point goals: Britto, Michaels.

Did not score: Cooper Mowry.

Central Columbia (14-11) 34

Mason Kingery 2 0-0 5; Kemp Bowman 0 0-2 0; Finley Huber 1 0-0 2; Jackson Gump 6 1-2 15; Andrew Beagle 2 0-0 4; Cam Humphries 3 0-0 6; Jensen Sarisky 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 1-4 34.

3-point goals: Gump 2, Kingery.

Did not score: Larson Kocher.

Score by quarters

Lewisburg;0;10;11;14 — 35

Central Columbia;11;7;7;9 — 34