Sullivan County advances to third straight district final
MANSFIELD - In the first quarter Sullivan County's hopes of a third straight trip to the District 4, Class A playoffs and a fourth straight trip to states seemed to be in jeopardy.
Galeton jumped out to a 7-3 lead and led 16-8 after one quarter.
However, just as the Griffins came back this year after losing four starters to graduation, they came back on Tuesday night, limiting Galeton to two points each in the second and third quarters on their way to a 44-29 victory.
"It feels really good," Sullivan County coach Glenn Vaughan said of the win. "Especially after the way Galeton came out fired up. Last year when we played them that probably wasn't the result they wanted and they came out with energy we didn't have.
"I don't think going into the game we knew just how good the (Dakota) Shadle kid was. He came ready to play. We made some adjustments to take him out of the game. I told the kids we held them to just two points in the second quarter, but then I found out after the game we held them to two points in the third quarter too."
The Griffins were down early, but they knew they were never out of the game.
"We started out slow, but we have a lot of confidence as a team," Conner Wylie said. "When we get down early we have leadership on the floor to keep us up."
And, the Griffins knew they just had to turn up the defensive effort.
"Every day in practice we work on defense as hard as we can," Wylie said.
Sullivan made a run in the second quarter to tie the game and then got up 19-18 and just as the first half ended they got a three from Sean Flannery, to put them up 22-18 at the half.
Flannery finished the game with a game-high 16 points on 4-for-6 threes and 5-for-8 shooting.
"Once I hit my first shot I felt great," Flannery said. "Right from the start I felt good and knew it was going to be a good night."
For Sullivan County the win gets them their third straight trip to the district final, and their third straight matchup with St. John Neumann.
"Sullivan/Neumann has turned into a good rivalry," Wylie said. "I can't wait to play them again."
Before this season started there were a lot of questions for the Griffins. Despite all their success in recent years, they had to replace a lot of talented players.
"The last four years have been great," Wylie said. "Everyone gets along so well. I love my teammates. Everyone on the team, they knew they had to step up and everyone did. I credit everything to my teammates."
Vaughan has been happy with the development of all the new players in the lineup.
"I'm definitely proud of them, they worked hard in the offseason," he said. "They have been in the weight room and do the things you have to do to get better. The new starters have been with the program for over a year and got playing time last year, but they had to get used to being in the spotlight rather than being a role player."
While it's easy to talk about what the Griffins lost after last year, Flannery said it is more about what the team gained.
"We lost one group of starters, but we gained four other starters," he said. "We have so many new weapons and we bond good together."
While many of the key players this year didn't play as much in the past because of the talented upperclassmen on the team, Flannery always knew they could be good.
"I knew we had potential coming up," he said.
Along with a trip to the district final the Griffins are guaranteed a spot in states for the fourth straight year, and Wylie hopes it's a long stay in the PIAA Tournament.
"I'm all ready, I'm excited for it," he said. "I hope we make it a longer run then we did last year."
Along with the 16 from Flannery the Griffins got 15 and nine boards from Wylie in the game.
Bob Polcrack had six for the Griffins and Adam Szklanka had five, while Tyler Lovelady had two points.
Szklanka had eight boards and five assists and Flannery added four boards, three assists and three steals.
Polcrack had two steals and a block, with two boards and an assist.
Shadle led Galeton with 12 points and Mitchell Smith had seven. McKinley Ward had five points and Jake Batterson had three, while Bob Williams had two points.
Williams had six boards and Ward had five. Williams added four blocks and Ward had three steals, while Smith had three boards and two steals.