JOHNSTOWN - The West Shore Christian boys basketball team entered the field house at the University of Pitt-Johnstown on Friday as the underdog, taking on the District 5 champion, Southern Fulton, in the first round of the PIAA Class A boys basketball tournament.
But you wouldn't know it by the reaction from the Bobcat bench at the buzzer that the team had just lost 67-49.
While Southern Fulton waited anxiously on the bench for the final horn to sound, West Shore was working hard to get the ball to leading scorer Jake Keeports, who, with less than a minute left in his final game in a Bobcat uniform, was one point away from the school's all-time scoring record.
West Shore's John Fisher rebounded a shot with less than a second remaining and handed the ball to Keeports, who put it back into the net for his 1,472nd point, inking his name into the school record book.
"One of our seniors (Joey Griffiths), knowing it's his last game, committed his fifth foul to prolong the game to get another possession for Jake to get it," West Shore coach Mike Gratbill said. "Everyone knew how many points he needed and they were going to do whatever it took to get it for him."
While the Bobcats (20-8) were celebrating Keeports' milestone, the Indians were moving on to the second round of the PIAA tournament. Southern Fulton (22-5) will play the District 12 champion, Constitution (17-11) which beat Lancaster County Christian 64-39 Friday in the first round. The second-round game will be played on Tuesday, time and site to be announced.
Despite the task of holding down Keeports, Southern Fulton came out strong, thanks to fast movements by Trent Rider on the outside, who drained a trey in the opening minute of the game, and followed with a two-point bucket to give the Indians an early edge.
"You always want to get off to a good start, and when Trent comes out and shoots like that, it's usually a pretty good sign for us," Southern Fulton coach Kent Hendershot said.
And although Keeports continued to put pressure on, Southern Fulton never trailed in the contest.
"We didn't do a very good job on him tonight," Hendershot said. "We didn't react very well at all, and we were a bit lethargic and didn't defend him well. But luckily we shot the ball pretty well in the first half and were able to get that little cushion and ride it out for the rest of the game."
Keeports finished with 32 points, including an 11-point fourth quarter.
Rider completed the game with 27 points, just one off his career high. And while in the first half he dazzled the crowd with 3-pointers, he made important layups in the second half for 16 points in the final two frames, despite foul-shooting struggles.
"I went out there and completely bricked my first two (foul) shots," Rider said.
But he wasn't the only one. Southern Fulton had one of the worst free-throw shooting games that Hendershot can remember, shooting 12-for-22 from the line.
"But that gives us confidence, too, though, because even though we shot 12-for-22, we still beat them by 20 points," Rider said.
"I felt like we left a lot of points out there," Hendershot said. "Luckily it didn't hurt us tonight, but we are certainly going to have to shoot better in the next game."
Southern Fulton held three players in double figures including Rider, with Dylan Gordon adding 16 points and Branden Lynch adding 10 after leading the team with seven points in the second quarter.
West Shore's Nick Songster was the only other Bobcat in double figures with 10 points.
Southern Fulton 67, West Shore Christian 49
West Shore Christian (49)
Pascal Verna 0 0-0 0, Nick Songster 3 4-4 10, Adam Foster 0 0-0 0, Derek Rockey 0 0-00, Trevor Rockey 0 0-0 0, Nathan King 0 0-0 0, Brian Glen 0 0-0 0, Jacob Keeports 13 5-10 32, Noah Weidman 0 0-0 0, John Fisher 2 2-4 7, Joey Griffiths 0 0-0 0. Totals — 18 11-18 49.
Southern Fulton (67)
Carl Potter 3 0-0 6, Zach Clark 1 1-2 3, Dylan Gordon 7 2-5 16, Trent Rider 11 2-4 27, Branden Lynch 3 4-5 10, Owen Hawkins 0 2-4 2, Logan Beatty 0 0-0 0, Chase Varner 0 0-0 0, Mitch Potter 0 0-0 0, Austin Schriever 1 1-2 3, Tanner Elbin 0 0-0 0. Totals — 26 12-22 67.
West Shore _ 11 _ 14 _ 8 _ 16 _ — _ 49
Southern Fulton _ 14 _ 18 _ 13 _ 22 _ — _ 67
3-point goals — WS 2 (Keeports, Weidman), SF 3 (Rider 3).