After going down early in the first quarter, the Greencastle-Antrim boys basketball team had to fight and claw its way back to earn a 49-47 victory over its Mid Penn Colonial Division foe on Friday night.
"I think we came out a little flat, and we underestimated them when we first came out," Blue Devil senior Austin Scott said. "Coach (Gary Martin) gave us a little pep talk to calm us down, and we came out better in the second half."
This is the second time this season that the Rockets (1-8, 0-5 MPC) have lost by just two points to a team that is expected to fight for the Colonial Division title. JB also fell to Gettysburg by a score of 49-47 on Dec. 19.
"I take full responsibility from where I'm sitting to help these kids through tough games at the end," JB coach Larry Strawoet said. "We have to understand how to play in the moment and have the confidence in what we do. We just aren't quite there yet."
Greencastle (8-2, 4-1 MPC) trailed by as many as nine points in the second quarter before it went on a run thanks almost completely to Scott.
Senior Brandon Puffenbarger started the streak with a basket from just inside the arc, then Scott took over. Starting with two charity shots, the 6-foot senior scored five consecutive points to tie the score at 19. He stole the ball, ran down the court and scored a layup despite getting fouled. After sinking the free throw, he followed it with another basket off a turnover.
"Austin Scott put on his pressure 'D,'" Martin said. "Then not only that, but to convert those steals into buckets and sometimes even a foul with it was really big. He's really getting his basketball legs up under him after being on the football field."
Scott finished with a career-high 18 points, added four rebounds and had three steals.
Senior Holden Baker helped the Blue Devils take a 24-22 lead by scoring five points in the final minute of the quarter.
The contest then went back and forth before Rocket senior Aubrey Brown hit a huge 3-pointer that gave his team a five-point lead with four minutes remaining. Then the fouling began, and Greencastle sank four consecutive free throws, followed by an inside layup by Danny Stepler to take back the lead with just over two minutes left.
The lead changed once more in James Buchanan's favor before the Blue Devils once again hit a stretch of a six perfect free throws.
"We've struggled a lot from the free throw line, but we made some when it really mattered, and it was from a variety of kids," Martin said. "They could've easily folded, but they stood up there and made the vast majority of their shots in the fourth quarter."
The Blue Devils were 14 of 22 from the line in the final eight minutes. Five of those - including the one that gave the Blue Devils the ultimate victory - came from Scott.
"I really don't feel any pressure," Scott said. "I just try to think like it's practice and act like there's no crowd watching and try to knock them down."
When Scott knocked down his eighth and final foul shot to set the score at 49-47, the Rockets had six seconds left to make a final push. But a costly turnover ended the game in Greencastle's favor.
"It comes down to being able to take care of the basketball at important times," Strawoet said. "But again, it's my fault because when you're in these close games, we can't find ways to win. I have to be able to prepare them better for these situations to help us win the game."
Scott wasn't the only one to set a personal record. JB's Grant Strawoet also hit a career-high with 19 points and earned a double-double by pulling down 11 rebounds.
"We challenged Grant tonight, and he stepped up to the challenge," coach Strawoet said. "As a coach and as a dad, I'm proud of him. I think he did some good things, and this is what we've expected from him for most of the season."
JB's defense was also a bright spot. Matched up man-to-man, Liam Corcoran held G-A's leading-scorer, Joel Zola, to just eight points. As a team, the Rockets allowed Greencastle to score fewer than 50 points for just the second time this season.
Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or email@example.com.
James Buchanan 47
Holden Baker 2 3-4 8, Danny Stepler 3 3-3 9, Joel Zola 2 4-5 8, Austin Scott 5 8-11 18, Brandon Puffenbarger 2 2-5 6, Eli Englehart 0 0-0 0, Matt Montedoro 0 0-0 0, Jeremiah Barber 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 20-28 49.
Liam Corcoran 0 3-6 3, Garrett Malanka 3 0-0 7, Jake Muller 1 5-6 7, Sloane Bendell 1 0-0 2, Grant Strawoet 6 3-4 19, Austin Metzler 2 0-2 4, Aubrey Brown 2 0-0 5, Zach Czuprynski 0 0-0 0, Josh Lechleitner 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 11-18 47.
Greencastle 8 16 5 20 - 49
James Buchanan 13 9 10 15 - 47
3-point shots - GA 1 (Baker); JB 6 (Strawoet 4, Malanka, Brown). Shooting - GA 14-42 (33.3%); JB 14-47 (29.8%). Rebounds - GA 20 (Zola 6) JB 27 (Muller 14, Strawoet 11). Assists - GA 12 (Zola 4); JB 10 (Muller 5). Steals - GA 5 (Zola 2, Scott 2); JB 3 (Corcoran, Malanka, Strawoet). Turnovers - GA 10; JB 15. Blocked shots - GA 9 (Puffenbarger 6); JB 1 (Muller). Fouled out - Bendell.
Next game: GA: Tuesday, at home vs. Big Spring, 7:30 ... JB: Tuesday, at Waynesboro, 7:30.