Late 3-pointer sinks Southern Fulton boys in 1st round
It was a shootout in Hollidaysburg on Friday night.
The Southern Fulton boys basketball team was edged 55-54 by a late 3-pointer from Williamsburg, falling in the first round of the PIAA Class 1A tournament.
While the Blue Pirates (16-10) advance to the second round to face Elk County Catholic (25-0), a 52-41 winner over Eden Christian, Southern Fulton ends the season 19-6.
But coach Kent Hendershot’s squad will look to get back on the horse next season.
“You’ve just got to go home and get up the next day and go to work,” Hendershot said. “In my 24 years, that’s what I’m most proud of; our kids go to work the next day.”
From the opening whistle, the teams put on a show for the fans, pumping the arena with energy on every drive. Neither team gave an inch defensively, with both squads fighting tooth and nail for every loose ball.
For both teams, it was win or go home, and the top players came to play for the Indians. Southern Fulton’s Dylan Gordon put on a dominant third quarter, overpowering the Blue Pirates’ defense and scoring 18 points in the third period alone. Gordon finished the game with 28 points.
The Indians looked to have a secure lead, but back came Williamsburg with its quick-strike offense to capitalize on Southern Fulton’s turnovers. The Blue Pirates' Austin Fay ignited the team and the crowd with multiple 3-pointers to close the gap between the teams.
Fay’s key threes came just as Southern Fulton was gunning the accelerator, nailing three shots beyond the arc in the fourth quarter to bring his team within striking distance of SF’s once lengthy lead.
Once the game got close, tensions ran high. Physical battles brought out the best in both teams, and as the level of physicality raised, so did the tempo of the game.
“A couple of plays there in the fourth quarter that were 50-50 balls, it got a little physical and might have revved our guys up a little bit and gave us an opportunity to get back in the game,” Williamsburg coach Brock Anders said.
The Indians did not go out without a fight. Gordon drove the lane with 16 seconds left, getting hammered under the basket for a foul. Gordon knocked down both free throws to give Southern Fulton a 54-52 lead with just over 12 seconds on the clock.
But in stepped Nick Michelone, whose lone basket in the final frame came at the perfect time for the Pirates.
Michelone sank a 3-pointer to give his team the lead with just four seconds left on the clock, pulling every player and spectator instantaneously out of their seats.
“It’s been a process for these guys,” Anders said. “They’ve really bought in, and I couldn’t be any more proud.”
Hendershot reflected positively about his team’s attitude throughout the season.
“All year long we talk about life lessons,” he said. “It’s like in life - you work your butt off every day to try to achieve something, and it doesn’t always go your way.”