DANVILLE - The ball sailed over Hughesville's full-court pressure and into the waiting hands of Bloomsburg's Colton Hock. The Bloomsburg junior calmly layed the ball off the glass and ended 15 years of playoff futility for the Panthers boys basketball program on Tuesday night.
Hock's bucket with under 5 seconds remaining finally ended Hughesville's comeback hopes and gave the No. 6 Panthers a 49-45 victory over the No. 11 Spartans in the opening round of the District 4 Class AA playoffs.
The Spartans (11-12), who trailed by 13 points at the half, rallied to within a point in the fourth quarter but never could take the lead.
"The last minute we played really heady and kept it together," Bloomsburg (16-6)?coach Jason Moser said. "Bloomsburg hasn't won a playoff game in 15 years, so you got that going, too, that old monkey. To be able to survive and get the job done there... a win is a win at this point of the season so we move on."
A Brandon Fortin 3-pointer with 12 seconds left pulled Hughesville to within two points, but the Spartans pressure couldn't force a turnover in the backcourt and Bloomsburg found Hock behind the defense with a long pass.
Bloomsburg will meet No. 3 seed Loyalsock in the quarterfinals at a time and place to be determined.
Kevin Gross led Bloomsburg with 17 points. The senior proved to be a hard matchup for the Spartans on the block in the first half as the bulky big man often pinned his defender on his back and was assertive with the ball once he received it from the perimeter. Eleven of his 17 points came in the first half as Bloomsburg built a 31-18 lead.
"I told him after the game that is pretty sure the best I've ever seen him play," Moser said, "and what a night to do it. He's a senior and he knows if it's not done now it's go home and never step on a high school court again as a player. He definitely rose to the occasion and got the job done."
Hughesville came out on its first possession in the second half and moved the ball quickly before getting the ball in the post to Fred Newhart, who scored. The possession was flawless and led Hughesville to an impressive third quarter where it outscored Bloomsburg 14-6 to close to within five points.
"We knew they weren't going to go away," Moser said. "They are a tough team. They are hard-nosed and so physical."
Gross opened the fourth quarter with a bucket to push the lead back to seven points before the Spartans scored the next six. Bloomsburg, however, never wilted. Hughesville closed to a single point on two different occasions, including on a Tristan Jeffreys' basket, but John Klingerman scored his only points on Bloom's next possession to make it a three-point game (45-42). A pair of free throws made it a five-point advantage, but Fortin made it a one possession game again with a long 3-point attempt across the floor from the Hughesville bench with 12 seconds remaining.
Jeffreys led the Spartans with 13 points - 10 coming in the second half. Newhart added 10.
Zach Mrozek, who made a pair of free throws that made it a five-point game with 26 seconds left, finished with 11 points.
Tristan Jeffreys 5 3-4 13, Brandon Fortin 3 2-2 8, Fred Newhart 5 0-0 10, Ty Stugart 1 0-0 2, Sean Poust 1 2-4 5, Tyler Mitcheltree 0 2-2 2, Kamaal Burkholder 0 0-0 0, Jeremiah McCarty 2 1-2 5, Austin Benedict 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 8-12 45.
Zach Mrozek 4 3-3 11, John Klingerman 1 0-0 2, Tyler Vincent 4 2-2 10, Zach Ashford 1 0-0 2. Kevin Gross 7 3-4 17, Colton Hock 1 0-0 2, Dylan Everhart 1 1-1 3. Totals: 20 9-10 49.
Hughesville6 12 14 13 - 45
Bloomsburg13 18 6 12 - 49
3-point goals: Hughesville 3 (Fortin 2, Poust); Bloomsburg 0.
Records: Bloomsburg 16-6, Hughesville 11-12.
Next: Bloomsburg vs. Loyalsock, TBA.