By Drew Karpen
February 9, 2013 7:00 a.m. COCHRANTON —
It was no walk in the park, but the Saegertown boys basketball team did what they have been doing all season and fought back to capture its second region title in as many years. With a 52-37 win over Cochranton, the Panthers win Region 3 for the first win after winning Region 4 last year.
“It feels great,” Saegertown’s Shane Rigby said. “It feels awesome to be region champs in back-to-back years.”
It wasn’t looking to promising for the Panthers (16-4, 11-0 Region 3) in the first half. After jumping out to an early 4-0 lead on back-to-back baskets by Dustin Pavlik, the Cardinals (13-7, 8-3) came storming back. Cochranton outscored the Panthers 11-4 the rest of the quarter, using a 6-0 spurt to open up the lead.
Cochranton’s Nate Roche recorded two baskets to end the first quarter, giving the Cardinals a 11-6 lead. The Cardinals also scored the first bucket of the second quarter on a Logan Herzberger baseline jumper. Pavlik would end the mini run by Cochranton with a 3-pointer.
The Panthers would crawl their way back to a 18-18 tie after a Scott Sada floater in the lane but Cochranton had an answer.
The Cardinals went on another run, this time a 7-0 run, to open up the game. The key play in the run came when Josh Vanderhoof connected on a 3-pointer for a 25-18 advantage.
Throughout the first half, the fast-paced Saegertown offense was slowed by turnovers and fouls.
Even with the frustration mounting in the first half on the Panthers’ sideline, Saegertown head coach Greg Molnar knew it was not time for his team to panic.
“We just needed to let things slow down,” Molnar said. “A lot of times in the locker room there is no panic. There is a quiet confidence with this group. We knew that it wasn’t Cochranton that was actually beating us . We were beating ourselves. We needed to play within ourselves. We needed to play like the team we were this year and not like the team we were in year’s past.”
The calm, cool and collective manor began to settle in for the Panthers in the third quarter, outscoring the Cardinals 20-6 in the frame.
Rigby, who only score one point in the first half, made it an emphasis to get more touches in the paint in the second half.
“I am very confident in the post,” Rigby said. “In the first half I wasn’t posting up and I got in foul trouble. That was the difference.”
Rigby go things started from the get-go in the second half, scoring his first bucket to pull the Panthers within five.
Pavlik drained a floater to make it 26-23, but the Cardinals had a short-lived answer. Herzberger recorded a quick four points to pad the lead back to 30-23. That’s when Saegertown took control.
The Panthers went on a 16-0 run, turning their seven point deficit into a nine point advantage. During the run, the Panthers got contributions from numerous players, including a 3-pointer form Luke Carter with the game tied at 30-30 to give the Panthers their first lead of the game since 5-4.
“That run was huge,” Rigby said. “The third quarter is key. We always want to come out and make a statement.”
The same could not be said on the opposing sideline.
“In big games we always seem to fall victim to the third quarter,” Cochranton interim coach Scott McCurdy said. “We coulnd’t respond to that. “They pretty much didn’t make a single change. We played our guts out there defensively, took some charges and got to the loose balls. We won the effort battle. Unfortunately in a game like this I can’t take my studs off the floor. In the second half, they seemed to get worn down. You could see it in their shots falling short. There is no secret that we like to play on the perimeter. Saegertown knew to take that away from us.”
It didn’t get much better in the fourth quarter for the Cardinals, as they were outscored 13-5.
Pavlik led the Panthers with 13 points in the win. Austin Scere chipped in with 11.
For the Cardinals, Herzberger, Nick Dickson and Vanderhoof led the team with eight points each.
Now with the region title in its back pocket, Saegertown realizes how crucial it is to finish the season strong.
“We have to keep our mindset on our goal. We want to make it out of districts and make it to states. We want to do at least one game better than last year.”
For Cochranton, they realize this loss was a big blow but by no means are they out of it.
“It sucks to lose but hopefully it makes us stronger,” McCurdy said. “It is just a matter of us getting past this and coming in the next day. You have to dig deep and learn with what happened here because moving forward our eyes are on a new prize.”