By Paul Buriak
Windber held off a late Chestnut Ridge rally and advanced to the District 5 Class AA boys’ basketball semifinals with a 58-52 victory over the visiting Lions on Wednesday night.
The fourth-seeded Ramblers (19-4) built a double-digit second-quarter advantage and held a 47-39 edge heading into the fourth, but the fifth-seeded Lions (13-9) battled back to pull within one with just over a minute remaining. Windber answered with a key defensive play and also hit five of six free throws down the stretch to preserve the win.
“This is a big step for these guys,” said Windber coach Jude Leonardis. “We’ve been one-and-done in the playoffs for the last few years, but our seniors came through and found a way to win.” The Ramblers will face top-seeded Northern Bedford on Friday night.
Dan Tomlinson scored a game-high 19 for Windber, while teammate Matt Barkley added 17.
“Every game someone different steps up for us, and tonight Dan and Matt came through in crunch time,” Leonardis said.
“We played a lot of close games, so I knew we’d make a run even after we got behind,” said Chestnut Ridge coach Randy Meck. “We had opportunities, but made too many mental errors.
“Their guards pressured our guards, and they hurt us with their penetration.”
Jay Grubb scored 13 for the Lions, who also got 12 from Tyler Wiley and 11 from Luke Stultz.
The Ramblers closed the first quarter on an 8-2 run keyed by a three-point play by Joe Cominsky and a 3-pointer by Devon Tomlinson to go up 20-13.
Windber led by as many as 11 in the second quarter, as Dan Tomlinson hit a three to make it 32-21 at the 1:39 mark.
The Lions kept within striking distance and a 7-2 third-quarter run keyed by Grubb’s three-point play narrowed the Chestnut Ridge deficit to 40-36 with 1:50 remaining, but Barkley scored seven straight Windber points to help the Ramblers open up a nine-point advantage.
The Ramblers were up 52-44 with 2:20 left in the game, but Tyler Wiley converted a three-point play and after Windber missed the front end of a one-and-one, Stultz nailed a 3-pointer to pull the Lions within 52-50 at the 1:40 mark.
Wiley then came up with a steal for Chestnut Ridge and was fouled, but he missed the subsequent one-and-one. Windber’s Bryce Spak hit one of two at the line for a 3-point lead, but a Stultz layup made it 53-52 with 1:02 left. Dan Tomlinson’s two free throws again put Windber up three, and Barkley then stole the ball on the ensuing possession and drained both free throws to give Windber a 57-52 lead with just 41 seconds to play.
Chestnut Ridge came up empty from three-point range, and Barkley hit one of two at the line to set the eventual final.