MERCERSBURG- With the third quarter of Wednesday's boys basketball game winding down, James Buchanan's offense appeared flatlined.
After Garrett Malanka's fast-break layup - ending a 17-0 West Perry run dating back to the second quarter - started an 8-0 JB run to end the third, a season-changing Rocket comeback victory seemed well within the realm of possibility.
The Mustangs dashed that idea though, finishing off the Rockets down the stretch for a 41-36 win.
"It wasn't pretty," said West Perry coach Jason Creek. "We didn't make our foul shots, we didn't take care of the basketball down the stretch, but I'm happy to pull this one out."
With the lead down to 24-20, the Mustang's Ryan McMillen quickly reestablished the gap at the start of the fourth quarter. After swishing in his third 3-pointer of the game, McMillen stole the ball on the following possession and finished at the other end with a fast-break layup to put West Perry back ahead, 29-20.
"That was pretty huge in the game," McMillen said. "It took the wind out of their sails, so I think that kind of changed the momentum a little bit."
Despite showing valiant fight down the stretch even after the McMillen baskets - getting the deficit as close as 39-36 inside of 1:00 left in regulation - the second quarter proved the difference.
Take away West Perry's five-point advantage during those eight minutes - JB finds themselves tied with the Mustangs, 31-31.
West Perry simply brought more hustle.
"We just didn't have it tonight, we were flat," said James Buchanan coach Larry Strawoet. "You look at us on defense and transition and they just beat us up the floor, they outhustled us and got on the floor for loose balls, so it's disappointing right now."
The Mustangs' aggressive zone play worked to limit the Rockets' most potent scorers, including Grant Strawoet, who had just three points for JB.
"We just tried to make sure we had our hands out," Creek said. "We play our zone, we try to get after it, but if we can get our hands out in a shooters face, we can control some good shooters."
Sloane Bendell led JB with nine points on four field goals - three coming off of assists on a night when the Rockets had only seven helpers.
"We just need to keep posting up more and keep working around inside and just keep passing the ball around and getting more open shots," Bendell said.
Liam Corcoran chipped in five of his eight points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws that cut the lead to three, but couldn't lift his Rockets far enough for the comeback.
In the second quarter, West Perry's Terek Weaver steadied a shaky Mustang start. His put-back basket, followed by a three-pointer, evened the score at 12-12.
That started the 17-0 run - nine points of which belonged to Weaver.
The defeat gives JB (2-9) their fifth loss by five points or fewer on the season.
"They have to believe in themselves and one another on that floor and right now we don't see that," Larry Strawoet said. "People want to watch us play because we play hard. Tonight I don't think we did that, and I hope we can get back to the way I know we can play."
Jeff Kolb can be reached at 262-4819 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
West Perry 41, James Buchanan 36
Tregg Liebel 1 0-0 3, Ryan McMillen 5 2-6 15, Shelden Deimler 4 1-2 9, Terek Weaver 4 2-3 11, Nate Sites 0 3-4 3. Totals 14 8-15 41.
Liam Corcoran 1 5-6 8, Grant Strawoet 1 0-0 3, Garrett Malanka 2 2-3 6, Jake Muller 2 2-3 6, Austin Metzler 0 2-2 2, Sloane Bendell 4 1-2 9, Ryan Hege 0 0-0 0, Aubrey Brown 0 0-0 0, Zach Czuprynski 1 0-0 2, Dustin Gossert 0 0-2 0. Totals 12 10-16 36.
West Perry 7 10 7 17 - 41
James Buchanan 7 5 8 16 - 36
3-point shots - WP 5 (McMillen 3, Liebel, Sites); JB 2 (Corcoran, Strawoet). Shooting - JB 12-50 (24%). Rebounds - JB 33 (Strawoet, Muller Bendell 9). Assists - 7. Steals - 4 (Malanka 2). Turnovers - JB 15. Blocked shots - 1 (Corcoran).
JV: West Perry 37, James Buchanan 30. Shamar Pates led the Rockets with 12 points.
Next game: Saturday, at home vs. Northern, 7:30.