By PAUL BURIAK
Shade withstood a furious fourth-quarter comeback attempt by Conemaugh Valley Monday night and the Panthers were able to hold on down the stretch to come away with a 55-47 victory over the Blue Jays.
The Panthers (15-6) looked to be in control with a 44-26 lead after three quarters, but effective pressure defense by the Jays (9-12) forced numerous Shade turnovers that allowed Valley to reel off a 16-1 run that cut the deficit to 45-42 on Cody Gill’s free throw with just under four minutes remaining.
Blake Furman scored nine of his game-high 26 during that surge.
After Furman nailed a baseline jumper to pull the Jays within 48-44 at the two-minute mark, Shade’s B.J. Spangler answered with the Panthers’ lone field goal of the fourth quarter, which turned out to be the pivotal shot of the night.
Spangler, who finished with a team-leading 16, buried his fourth 3-pointer of the contest to put his club up by seven with 1:30 to play, and the Panthers then hit four of six at the line to secure the win.
“It’s always good to get a win on the road,” said Shade head coach Wade Fyock. “We rebounded well and shot well in stretches, but we didn’t take care of the ball. Give CV credit. They hustled and got back in the game but we were able to hit enough free throws to hold onto the lead.”
The District 5 playoff-bound Panthers got 15 points from Jeremy Pyles and 13 from Matt Holland.
Conemaugh Valley concluded its season under first-year head coach Brandon Studer.
“We started out flat, but once we got some energy on defense we were able to put some pressure on them, force turnovers and get momentum. We had too big of a hole to dig ourselves out from against a good team.”
Shade led by five at the end of one quarter, and a pair of 3-pointers by Spangler keyed a 12-1 run that put the Panthers up 26-13 with 3:09 left in the first half.
The Panthers also had a strong start to the third, out scoring Valley 10-2 to take their biggest lead of the game at 39-19 on Aaron Fyock’s 3-pointer.
“We played good half-court defense,” Fyock said. “We just need to clean up the mistakes and turnovers This is the type of game to learn from.”
“I was proud of our guys for their effort tonight and all year,” Studer said. “We got better each week and became a tough, competitive team by the end of the season.”