By Jim Hunter
March 2, 2013 7:00 a.m. EDINBORO —
Step aside, Bill Hager.
Legendary General McLane basketball coach Andy Schulz became the District 10 all-time winningiest boys’ basketball coach Friday night as his Lancers claimed their second consecutive Class AAA championship with a nail-biting 47-44 win over Girard at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House.
Schulz now has 598 career victories, breaking a tie with Hager, the former Maplewood and Franklin boys’ coach.
“This win isn’t about me breaking the record ... it’s about the kids,” said the humbled Schulz. “They (players) worked really hard for this championship and I’m very proud of them.”
The GM mentor probably would have preferred the record-breaking win to be less stressful.
The Lancers led the entire game, but Girard — which handed GM its only two losses in Region 6 during the regular season — finished with a flourish and nearly sent the game into overtime.
Trailing 45-36, the Yellow Jackets’ Joe Swanson and Alexander Cruz bombed in consecutive three-pointers to cut the deficit to 45-42 with 24 seconds left in the game.
After GM’s Jaymon Mason sank two free throws and Girard’s Nason McCall scored on an offensive rebound, the Yellow Jackets immediately fouled the Lancers’ Lukas Hallet with 10 seconds showing on the clock.
The tactic worked as Hallet missed both free throws — giving Girard one last attempt to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Schulz & Co. held their breath as Girard’s Joe Dunn launched a three-point attempt from the left wing ... short ... game over.
“What a fantastic game! ... two great teams battling to the last second,” said Schulz. “I have to give Girard a lot of credit for coming back like they did.”
Schulz knew how to fight off the gutsy Yellow Jackets — give the ball to Mason.
General McLane led 25-10 with 3:43 remaining in the second quarter, but Girard closed the second stanza with a 7-0 run to get within 25-17 at halftime.
Fearing the momentum might be slipping away, Schulz’s opening two plays in the third quarter were designed for Mason, his 6-foot-3 senior standout.
Mason tossed in a 15-footer and then bombed in a three-pointer from the top of the key to increase the Lancers’ lead to 30-19 with 5:20 left in the third quarter.
Leading 35-29, Schulz called upon Mason again. After converting a 12-foot floater, the silky-smooth, left-handed Lancer drove the lane and sank another floater (with his right hand) to push GM’s lead to 39-29 with 3:23 left in the game.
Still not a safe lead for the Lancers.
Swanson drained a three-pointer and made three free throws after getting fouled on a three-point attempt to get Girard within 39-36 with 1:10 showing on the clock.
Mason time again.
After Halley swished two free throws, Mason — GM’s primarily ball-handler — sank four straight free throws to increase the Lancers’ lead to 45-36 with 49 seconds remaining in the game.
General McLane then held on ... barely.
Mason was a one-man show for the Lancers with a game-high 22 points. He was seven-for-12 from the floor and six-for-seven at the foul line.
Swanson led Girard with 18 points.