GREENCASTLE - Tuesday night's game had all the makings of a thriller.
With few empty seats in the house and second place in the Mid Penn Colonial Division on the line, rivals Greencastle-Antrim and James Buchanan went toe-to-toe to start their boys basketball game. But as the Blue Devils improved, the Rockets slid, and Greencastle claimed a 60-44 victory.
"I think we were trying to get the ball inside, but we were forcing it too much," JB forward Ryan Hege said. "We made some bad passes, and we weren't really running our offense well tonight. After the first half, we went to just one pass then forced it inside; that was pretty much our offense tonight."
It seemed like a relatively decent strategy, looking at Hege's numbers alone. He finished with 16 points and 17 rebounds, but he contributed more than 35 percent of the offense and more than 55 percent of the boards for the Rockets (11-5, 5-3 MPC).
Greencastle coach Gary Martin said, "We had three guys guarding him the whole time. He's challenging to defend. His teammates are really buying into getting him the ball, so when he posts up, you better believe the ball is coming to him."
Despite Hege racking up yet another double-double, Greencastle (10-5, 6-2 MPC) continued to use its strong defense to get better and better at stopping both Hege and the entire Rocket offense.
After scoring 12 points in the first half, Hege had just two buckets in the second half, and the Blue Devils held JB to just two field goals in the final quarter.
"Defense has been our big thing all year," G-A senior Sam Sprague said. "When we're aggressive, that's when we win games. Our defense, in my opinion, has won us the majority of our games this year."
Rockets coach Larry Strawoet said, "I don't think we played well as a team on either end of the floor. I thought we forced a lot of stuff, and I thought we were very predictable on the offensive side at times."
While Greencastle picked up its defensive prowess, it also improved on the offensive side of the ball. The Blue Devils shot 52.5 percent from the field and managed to get quite a bit of penetration despite being clearly outsized. Greencastle scored 22 of its points in the paint.
"I think the best thing we could do was get Hege up in the air," Sprague said. "When we would get him to jump, it allowed us to go up right after him. I really think we out-manned them in the paint tonight, and I think we out-muscled them."
Ball movement was a big positive for G-A, as well. Eleven of the Blue Devils' 21 field goals had assists; Ian Gelsinger led the way with four, and Casey Hoover had three.
Strawoet said, "They were very patient on the offensive side, and every time we forced a turnover or got a big possession, we were very impatient. That was the difference in the game."
NOTES: JB had 17 turnovers, compared to just six for the Blue Devils ... G-A was led by Hoover with 15 points, while Sprague and Bryan Gembe each scored 11 ... No other Rocket finished in double figures, but Cody Tacker and Hunter Sowers split 18 points evenly ... Hege had as many rebounds as Greencastle.
Greencastle 60, James Buchanan 44
James Buchanan (44)
Jared Pine 2 0-0 5, Gage Piper 1 1-2 3, Zach Vosburg 1 0-0 2, Cody Tacker 3 2-2 9, Ryan Hege 7 2-3 16, Toby Sowers 0 0-0 0, Kyle Buchanan 0 0-0 0, Hunter Sowers 4 1-1 9, Justin Helman 0 0-0 0, Rylan Wassil 0 0-0 0, Hunter Reath 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 6-8 44.
Brandon Stuhler 3 3-4 9, Spencer Meyers 2 2-2 8, Sam Sprague 5 1-3 11, Ian Gelsinger 2 2-4 6, Casey Hover 5 4-5 15, Matt Lutz 0 0-0 0, Bryan Gembe 4 0-0 11, Ben Freeman 0 0-0 0, Camron Hileman 0 0-0 0, Bryson Robinson 0 0-0 0. Totals — 21 12-18 60.
James Buchanan _ 14 _ 11 _ 12 _ 7 _ — _ 44
Greencastle _ 14 _ 19 _ 16 _ 11 _ — _ 60
3-point goals — JB 2 (Pine, Tacker), GA 6 (Gembe 3, Meyers 2, Hoover).
JV score — James Buchanan 39, Greencastle 29. Rylan Wassil led the Rockets with 11 points, and Evan Maun had 10 for the Blue Devils.