Wednesday’s District 5 Class AA boys championship was nothing like the contest played last season between Conemaugh Township and Northern Bedford.
The result after 32 minutes on the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center’s rubberized floor was the same. Conemaugh Township cutting down a net.
Weathering an early storm, the Indians controlled the glass and outduked the Black Panthers on their way to a 57-52 win.
“I guess just sheer will of those kids,” Conemaugh Township coach Chuck Lesko said. “I can’t speak enough about how hard they work every day, day in and day out. For them to just come in and be down early like they were and just stay in it. We just wanted to kind of stay around. Stay around. Stay around. To their credit, (Ben) Wilson his some big shots when needed and really Austin (Speigle) and Jeff (Callihan), seniors, just really played a major role in keeping the group together and keeping the group focused on what their job was down the stretch.”
It was a far cry from the Indians’ 75-29 win over Northern Bedford a season ago.
“From out of the gates (last year), they mopped us up,” Northern Bedford coach Jason Free said. “That’s all the inspiration the guys playing on the team last year needed. They wanted it bad, unfortunately, I think they wanted it too bad. In the fourth quarter we took some unadvised shots that I would have liked to have run the offense and get a better look.”
After opening with an 8-0 lead, thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Blake Over, Northern Bedford led by as much as nine points before the Indians (21-5) clawed back with a 9-0 run to tie.
Luke Maurer’s conventional 3-point play knotted the score before Zane Snyder put Northern Bedford ahead with a jumper. Free throws from Kyler Diehl ran the lead to four points before a Maurer putback capped the first quarter’s scoring.
The teams traded leads throughout the second with the quarter’s largest advantage coming as Over finished a 4-0 mini run to put Northern Bedford ahead 24-21. A Ben Wilson 3-pointer tied it before Snyder’s late jumper pushed the Black Panthers ahead 26-24 at halftime.
Nip-and-tuck play followed the break as the quarter’s largest lead came as a Diehl 3-pointer broke a 36-all tie late in the frame. A Jeff Callihan tip-in and a 3-pointer from Wilson temporarily swung the lead to the Indians before Jacob Dasher’s buzzer-beating tip-in knotted the score at 41 heading into the fourth.
With a go-ahead 3-pointer from Jacob Cherry along with a putback and a free throw from Diehl, Northern Bedford stormed to a 47-43 lead before Jake Formica and Callihan combined for the next five points to give the Indians the lead for good. A charging foul called on Callihan with 3:07 remaining fouled him out and left Conemaugh Township down two key contributors after losing Maurer to injury in the third.