By BRETT R. CROSSLEY
For the Loyalsock Lancers
SHIKELLAMY—It was all right there for the taking as Loyalsock entered Shikellamy’s gym for the second game this week against Danville.
The Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference championship was up for grabs and Loyalsock might have had some momentum entering the game after a last second win over No. 3 Mount Carmel. That wasn’t how the game started.
No. 2 Loyalsock looked off as No. 1 Danville made six of its first seven attempts from the field, building a nine-point lead to force a timeout. The early points mattered as a late comeback by Loyalsock fell short to give Danville a 53-49 win and the PHAC championship.
Friday’s championship game played out in similar fashion as Monday’s with the Lancers making a late charge, but falling short this time as Danville closed the game out with four consecutive makes from the foul line.
“That’s game-to-game,” Danville coach Lenny Smith said of the teams free throw shooting. “Some nights we are killer at the foul line and other nights it seems like we can’t hit anything. There’s no in between. Fortunately this was a night where we hit them and we needed them for sure.”
Danville was 14 of 18 from the line through the second half. Jordan Bickhart was especially good, converting six of his eight attempts in the fourth quarter. Bickhart finished with 17 points on the night, but was shutout in the third quarter as Loyalsock outscored Danville 12-7. In the fourth, Bickhart scored eight points to help the Ironmen ice the game.
“He’s the man,” Smith said. “He makes the team go. He stretches the court out. He can score on anybody and can score inside and outside. Man, he’s quick.”
Bickhart hit a three early to help Danville get going offensively. In Monday’s matchup against Loyalsock, Danville fell behind early as the Lancers opened on a 7-0 run. Friday, the Ironmen returned the favor, opening the game on an 11-2 run.
Bickhart’s three helped continue that run, but it was the combination of Mavin James and Shane Kozick underneath that helped the Ironmen extent possessions for extra looks and points.
“I was brought in to get rebounds,” James said. “I had to rebound and play my role on defense against the bigs. They were going to look to start quick. Monday they had us down 7-0 and we today we had a good start this time.”
Danville connected on six of its first seven shots. Once the opening run hit 11-2 Loyalsock was forced into a timeout to attempt to get the offense back on track.
“It was a really good start,” James said. “That was the key. That got us going.”
James was outstanding throughout the entire game. He finished the first with three points and two rebounds and kept it going with four points and a rebound in the second. As Loyalsock started to make its move, James continued to produce for the Ironmen, scoring three points, recording a block, and pulling down three rebounds in the second half.
Defensively, Danville shined throughout the game as the contained Loyalsock’s leading scorer in Gerald Ross, who torched the Ironmen for 33 points and the game-winner in Monday’s matchup.
Friday was a completely different story as Ross entered the final two minutes with just six points.
“We changed defense a little bit,” Smith said. “It was more of a help and man. We tried not to switch, but he burned us. He’s a great player and he’s hard to stop, but we did just about as good of a job as you can do against a player that.”
Ross scored four points over the final two minutes as Loyalsock inched closer to Danville. The Lancers would cut the lead to five twice and three once, but wouldn’t get any closer as Bickhart and company closed it out at the line.
“We hit our fouls shots, but so did they,” Loyalsock coach Ron “CI” Insinger said.
No. 1 Danville 53, No. 2 Loyalsock 49
Gerald Ross 3 3-4 10; Collin Graver 0 0-0 0; Anthony Pastore 4 0-0 9; Connor Watkins 6 1-1 13; Mitchell Klingerman 3 4-6 10; Bam Brima 0 0-2 0; Aiden Gair 2 3-4 7; Ryan Sullivan 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 11-17 49.
Coleman Cush 0 1-2 1; KJ Riley 0 0-0 0; Shane Kozick 4 5-6 13; Peyton Riley 1 3-4 6; Jack Smith 0 0-0 0; Mavin James 3 4-6 10; Jordan Bickhart 56-10 17; Colin Holcombe 2 2-2 6. Totals 15 21-30 53.
LOY 7 11 12 19–49
DAN 18 15 7 13–53
3–Point Goals: Loyalsock 2 (Ross, Pastore). Danville 2 (Riley, Bickhart).
Records: Loyalsock 18-6. Danville 19-4.