Towanda falls to East Juniata
MONTOURSVILLE - Coming off a victory Tuesday over Class AAA Athens to win the Northern Tier League, Towanda strutted into the District 4 Class AA playoffs with some confidence Friday facing 18-win East Juniata. A slow start and difficulty knocking down open looks spelled a quick exit for the Knights as the squad fell, 57-46
The boys from East Juniata came out determined behind Nick Lorenz's 11 first-quarter points and dominant play on the glass by Bailey Coder. The Tigers jumped into an aggressive man-to-man, thwarting inside passes by the Knights and forcing the visitors to try their luck from beyond the three-point arc. Towanda's Noah Huff snuck one three in there as the Tigers' defense became increasingly less permeable.
"The first quarter they shot the ball well and they got off to a 15- point lead," Towanda coach Ryan Napp said. "We couldn't get past that 10-point mark and I should have put a quicker guard in."
With Lorenz operating the point, the Tigers looked to increase their lead in the second quarter, already up 20-7. The suffocating Tiger defense continued which led to fast-break opportunities and a 6-0 run to start the second stanza. A Tristan James jumper ended the mini-run, bringing the Knights to within 17.
Towanda changed pace after being relatively unsuccessful from three- point land by driving to the bucket, looking for easy chances or a trip to the free-throw line. The Knights were able to muster a 4-0 run late in the quarter as East Juniata's big man, Bailey Coder, collected his third foul with 25 short seconds remaining in the half.
One guard in particular stepped up big time. Lorenz remained cool and collected throughout the game, netting 14 points in the first half and finishing the night with 25.
Coder had a huge night of his own, controlling the glass and chipping in 19 points.
After taking a 14-point deficit to the break, the Knights came out looking rejuvenated. Joel Miller opened the third with a big three for the Knights but the duo of Coder and Lorenz answered and the two teams traded buckets which prevented the Knights from getting too close.
"We went to four guards with one big and just decided to put pressure on the ball," Napp said. "We were especially trying to get it out of Lorenz's hands, which worked for a little bit."
Following an offense rebound and second-chance bucket, Huff picked a Tiger player and knocked down a bucket, bringing the Knights to within 11. Just as the momentum was shifting in favor of the visitors, Lorenz and the Tigers were able to settle the pace of play back into their favor and a Coder rebound and follow-up bucket propelled the home team back to a 13-point lead.
Towanda's Joel Miller, who contributed eight points and was a presence inside, got into foul trouble late in the third and fouled out with just over 28 seconds remaining in the game.
"Joel got two early fouls," Napp said. "They kind of took him out of his rhythm."
With time ticking late in the third, Coder picked up his fourth foul, sending him to the bench with 1:10 left in the quarter. Ben Pillot entered in Coder's stead, spelling the big man and contributing on the glass.
Two threes by Huff narrowed the lead to as little as seven in the fourth, but the Tigers were just too strong as they entered the one-and-one, sending them to the charity stripe with a chance to seal the deal. The Tigers converted 50 percent of their freebees, including two by Coder.
Huff paced the Knights with 17 points while teammate Rodenhizer chipped in 13 of his own.
The Knights finish their season (18-5) as the Northern Tier League champions.
"It feels great, we got to cut the nets down and then three days later our season's over," Napp said. "We're young, they'll respond from this," He added.