JOHNSTOWN - Southern Fulton can thank Dylan Gordon for this one.
Somewhere near the end of the third quarter, Gordon went into overdrive. He scored 20 of the Indians' 23 second-half points and 29 total, lifting SF past McConnellsburg, 40-35, in the District 5 Class A boys basketball championship at the University of Pitt-Johnstown.
"Dylan played a tremendous game," Spartan coach Dane Pollock said. "He pretty much willed them to win."
With two minutes left in the third quarter, the Spartans (21-4) led by five points. Then Gordon hit a tough layup to pull within two, but it was really at the buzzer where he hit his stride.
"I take responsibility for what our team does and how we react to situations like that (being behind)," Gordon said. "I put my team on my back, and that's what coach told me I needed to do if we got in a situation like that."
On the final possession of the third, Gordon chucked up a 3-pointer between a pair of McConnellsburg defenders. Somehow, someway, it went in, and Southern Fulton (21-5) was tied with the Spartans, 27-27, heading into the fourth.
From there, Gordon quite literally did all the work for SF - at least offensively. The Indians had 13 points in the final quarter, and Gordon scored every single one.
"He was an animal," Indian senior Trent Rider said. "He has a mode where he turns it on, and he's pretty unstoppable. He just rises up and scores at will. He went from 12 (points) to like 25 in a matter of three minutes. I'm definitely glad he's on my team."
SF coach Kent Hendershot said, "We started the fourth quarter with the game tied, and I looked at them and said, 'It's go time.' We had to go out and play better than what we did in the first three quarters. Trent told me we had this, and Dylan put us on his shoulders. I've been on him all year about being the man for us, and tonight, certainly he was."
Southern Fulton has now won 20 straight contests against the Spartans, and McConnellsburg will have to wait until next year for another shot at its first District 5 Class A title. But the Spartans gave SF a handful, especially in the first half.
As dominating as Gordon was for the Indians, McConnellsburg senior Jake Boehme also didn't look like he was ready for a loss. Boehme scored a team-high 17 points, including 11 in the first half. He didn't even miss a shot until late in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for McConnellsburg, though, Gordon was put on the Boehme assignment, and he was held scoreless in the final frame.
"I thought I did really well early on," Boehme said. "I was just so hyped, and I turned it into emotion on the court. But I think they started denying me the ball, and I couldn't get my touches. They were doubling me on everything if I ran off the screen because they knew I had the hot hand."
Gordon said, "He was on fire in the first half. I wasn't hedging screens well, and we weren't getting back on the ball well. They were getting open jumpers all night. Thankfully, they didn't hit all of them later."
McConnellsburg did struggle with some shooting woes late in the game. After going 8-for-18 (44.4%) from the field in the first half, the Spartans were a mere 6 of 23 (26.1%) in the latter half.
Ian Cheatle scored 12 points by hitting four 3-pointers.
Despite the loss, the Spartans weren't disappointed in their effort, and their journey doesn't end here. Both teams have a date with the PIAA playoffs, which begin next Friday.
"The first thing I would say is I've never seen so many men cry in a locker room," Boehme said. "That's a brotherhood that we have. We were disappointed at the time, but we can't be really upset because we put McConnellsburg back on the map in regards to basketball.
"And to be honest - and I don't know if my teammates would like this - but if I'm going to lose to anybody in the district championship, I would rather it be to a Fulton County team."
It was Southern Fulton's first District 5 boys basketball championship since it won back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, but at least a handful of Indians will be adding their medals to a pair of baseball golds. SF is the two-time defending district champion in baseball.
"I definitely felt like I owed it to my school and to my team to get us back here and get a win because I was to blame for last year," said Rider, who missed last year's district final, which SF lost to Shanksville. "Hopefully everyone will remember this from now on. It's a great feeling. I'd love to get as many (gold medals) as I can, and three is a pretty good number."
Southern Fulton 40, McConnellsburg 35
So. Fulton (40)
Carl Potter 0 0-0 0, Trent Rider 2 1-2 6, Branden Lynch 1 3-4 5, Zach Clark 0 0-0 0, Dylan Gordon 9 9-10 29, Owen Hawkins 0 0-0 0. Totals — 12 13-16 40.
Jake Boehme 7 1-1 17, Ian Cheatle 4 0-0 12, Ryan Koontz 0 0-0 0, Landon Richards 0 0-0 0, Chase Novak 2 0-0 4, Quintin Miller 0 0-0 0, Shawn Garlock 1 0-0 2. Totals — 14 1-1 35.
So. Fulton _ 10 _ 7 _ 10 _ 13 _ — _ 40
McConnellsburg _ 10 _ 11 _ 6 _ 8 _ — _ 35
3-point goals — SF 3 (Gordon 2, Rider), McC 6 (Cheatle 4, Boehme 2).