EVERETT - All you have to do is see the "26" next to Shade's name and you can quickly figure out why the Panthers could not match McConnellsburg.
Yes, the Spartan defense was stifling.
And that was all McConnellsburg needed to claim a 40-26 victory over Shade on Tuesday night at Everett in a District 5 Class A boys basketball semifinal game.
The win was the eighth straight for the Spartans, it moved their record to 21-3 and it set up an all-Fulton County final on Friday night at 8 p.m. at the University of Pitt-Johnstown in the district championship game. McConnellsburg will face rival Southern Fulton (20-5) for the third time this season after the Indians prevailed 64-58 in two overtimes over Shanksville.
"It was really big getting that 17-4 lead," Spartan guard Chase Novak said. "Our defense in the first quarter was good. We knew they had some good 3-point shooters and we tried to run them off their spots. They usually shoot around 22 a game, but I think we held them down."
Yes, they did. The Panthers got off only 10 3-pointers and their only success came on two by Johnny Mauger.
McConnellsburg coach Dane Pollock said, "We did a lot of drills on closing down on your man and getting a hand in his face, and then getting in front of him in case there was a long rebound."
The Spartan defense was so good that Shade had the same number of turnovers - 29 - as it did attempted shots from the field.
"I have to credit their defense," Panther coach Wade Fyock said. "They knew who they had to play tough against and they did. We shoot a lot of threes, but we like to get it inside (to 6-foot-7 Hunter Thomas) and play inside out.
"We got it to him some early, but they made adjustments."
Thomas was 3-for-3 from the floor, but the McConnellsburg defense created numerous turnovers and steals when Shade tried to get it to Thomas.
Pollock said, "The biggest thing was the pressure we put on them. From what we saw on film, they didn't handle the ball really well, so we wanted to get right up into them and hope they had some turnovers."
Shade had 14 turnovers in the first half and it didn't get any better from there.
Fyock said, "At some point you have to make a play, but we couldn't break them down off the dribble, and then we were snake bit with turnovers. When you make that many turnovers it's tough to find a rhythm."
The Spartans scored nine straight points in the first period to lead 9-2, then eight more in a row after a Panther bucket. Shade ran off nine straight in the second period and it was only a 19-15 lead at halftime.
But in the second half, the Panthers could make only four field goals on 17 attempts and McConnellsburg slowly but surely pulled away.
"We wanted to get some points early in the third," Novak said.
The Spartans scored six of the first eight in the third period. Novak closed that quarter with a jumper and opened the fourth with another and when Jake Boehme also netted a deuce, it was 33-20 and just a matter of time.
Pollock said, "We always try to score the first six after the half and we almost did tonight. I told Chase at halftime that he had to get going. He's so team-oriented, but I told him at some point, if you're the best player, you have to take over the game."
Novak led McConnellsburg with 12 points and added four steals, and Ian Cheatle racked up 11 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and made five steals. Boehme contributed seven points and five assists.
Mauger was the top scorer for Shade with eight points.Thomas, Brady Fyfe and Aaron Fyock all frequently score in double figures - they had six, four and two points, respectively, and took only 13 shots total.
"Chase (vs. Fyock) and Jake (vs. Fyfe) both did a great job on defense," Pollock said.
You could say that about the whole team.
McConnellsburg 40, Shade 26
Aaron Fyock 1-3 0-0 2, Brady Fyfe 1-7 2-2 4, Hunter Thomas 3-3 0-0 6, Chase Kiser 1-2 0-0 2, Johnny Mauger 3-9 0-0 8, Austin Mauger 2-5 0-3 4, Michael Hartman 0-0 0-0 0, Noah Pyles 0-0 0-0 0, Zach Hodges 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan Valine 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — 11-29 2-5 26.
Jake Boehme 3-10 0-0 7, Ryan Koontz 0-0 0-1 0, Ian Cheatle 5-12 1-3 11, Shawn Garlock 2-3 0-0 4, Landon Richards 1-5 1-3 4, Chase Novak 5-11 0-0 12, Quintin Miller 1-2 0-0 2, Nic Culler 0-1 0-0 0, Ethan Barclay 0-0 0-0 0, Patrick Keefer 0-0 0-0 0, Chance Hawbaker 0-0 0-0 0, Logan Little 0-0 0-0 0. Totals — .
Shade _ 4 _ 11 _ 5 _ 6 _ — _ 26
McConnellsburg _ 12 _ 7 _ 10 _ 11 _ — _ 40
3-point goals — Shade 2-10 (J.Mauger 2), McConn 4-16 (Novak 2, Boehme, Richards).