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Lancaster Catholic's Thomas Gonzalez put back a miss with 2 seconds left as the Crusaders defeated James Buchanan , 52-50 to advance in the District 3 Class AAA playoffs. Patrick Blain

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LANCASTER - Holding a 50-45 lead with just over two minutes left in the game, the James Buchanan boys basketball team was in prime position to pull off an upset Friday night.

But with its back against the wall, Lancaster Catholic turned up the heat on defense, cooled down the Rockets and scored the final seven points of the game to pull out a 52-50 victory in the play-in game of the District 3 Class AAA playoffs.

The Crusaders (15-9) began the final possession of the game with 39 seconds left. After stalling the clock to 10 seconds, Jon Ware had the ball in the corner, looking to find Thomas Gonzalez, who was coming off a screen. When Gonzalez was covered, Ware drove to the basket and missed a layup, but Gonzalez was there for the put-back to make it 52-50. James Buchanan did not get off another shot.

“I thought Jon was going to work his magic, like he has all season,” Gonzalez said, “but when I saw he missed, I just tried to get to the ball, and I was able to put it away.”

The Rockets, who finish the season with a 13-10 record, seemed to have the game put away late in the game.

Holding a 41-40 lead, Toby Sowers, who had earlier dislocated his finger but returned to the game, scored back-to-back buckets to give JB a five-point cushion and draw the loudest roar of the night from the crowd. He finished with 10 points.

“It just shows the toughness of him and this team,” Rocket coach Larry Strawoet said. “Most kids wouldn’t want to come back into the game after that injury, but he wanted to be there for his teammates and he made some big plays for us down the stretch.”

The Rockets shot over 40 percent from the floor and 70 percent from the foul line, but they committed three turnovers in the final two minutes that propelled the Crusader comeback.

“When this season started, nobody gave us a chance to be here,” said JB center Ryan Hege, who finished with a game-high 17 points and 16 rebounds. “It’s great to get to this point, and we gave it our all, but it just sucks that we couldn’t finish.”

Crusader coach Joe Klazas said, “They are a very tough, physical team, and they played hard against us all night.”

And even though their season ended with a heart-breaking loss, Strawoet is proud of how far the Rockets have come over the past two seasons.

“What this group of seven seniors has done to rejuvenate this program is amazing,” Strawoet said. “You look at us two years ago, or even this year, and nobody thought we could get to this point. They deserve all the credit.”

For Lancaster Catholic, Sean Landis led with 12 points, Gonzalez finished with 11 and Ware had 10.

Lancaster Catholic 52, James Buchanan 50

James Buchanan (50)

Ryan Hege 6-9 5-7 17, Toby Sowers 4-9 2-2 10, Gage Piper 3-9 0-0 9, Hunter Sowers 2-6 0-0 4, Zach Vosburg 0-0 0-0 0, Cody Tacker 2-4 0-1 6, Jared Pine 2-4 0-0 4, Kyle Buchanan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 19 7-10 50

Lancaster Catholic (52)

Sean Landis 4-9 4-7 12, Thomas Gonzalez 5-9 1-4 11, Jon Ware 2-11 5-7 10, Chad Wenger 2-9 1-1 5, Mark Canon 1-4 0-0 3, Andrew DeBord 3-4 0-0 6, Bryan Downey 2-4 1-2 5, Dany Bomberger 0-2 0-0 0, Shawn Henry 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 17 12-21 52.

James Buchanan _ 12 _ 11 _ 15 _ 12 _ — _ 50

Lancaster Catholic _ 9 _ 14 _ 16 _ 13 _ — _ 52

3-point goals – JB 5-12 (Piper 3-7, Tacker 2-3, T.Sowers 0-1, Pine 0-1), LC 2-10 (Ware 1-5, Canon 1-2, Bomberger 0-2, Downey 0-1).

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