HERSHEY - Maybe it was the more than two hour drive down. Maybe it was simply getting over the fact it was the state playoffs.
Whatever it was that had Sullivan County playing a little tight was quickly shook off as the District 4 runner-up proved through the final three quarters it could do anything it wanted against Greenwood.
Derek Wilkins finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Conner Wylie added 10 points as Sullivan County opened the PIAA Class A playoffs with a 56-32 blowout win over Greenwood Friday night at the Milton Hershey School.
Wilkins helped the Griffins dominate the middle quarters as he led the defense, which held Greenwood to just seven combined points through the second and third quarters. And he wasn't bad offensively either, scoring seven of his team-high 16 points while pulling down six boards and adding a block.
"We made it a point to tell them not to relax on the defensive side of the floor," Sullivan County coach Glenn Vaughan said.
The defensive stand also helped the Griffins (23-3) gain separation on the scoreboard. The offense outscored District 3 runner-up Greenwood 16-5 in the second and 13-2 in the third to take a 42-20 lead into the final quarter.
"In the first quarter we weren't ready to guard their sets at their speed," Vaughan said. "They are very good at what they do, and I don't think we were ready for it."
Greenwood (21-5) just couldn't find an answer for Wilkins and Wylie, both of whom controlled the paint with a clear size advantage. Wilkins even pulled up for a three in the fourth quarter, adding to Sullivan's lead and putting the dagger in Greenwood.
"We just work out hardest and try to get the ball inside as much as possible," Wilkins said.
The Wildcats, who where led by Harrison's game-high 18 points, earned the top seed in the District 3 tournament, completing the season with a 19-3 mark. It dominated the first two games of the tournament, outscoring two opponents by a combined 111-42. It wasn't until the finals Greenwood felt challenged in the tournament. No. 2 Lebanon Catholic squeaked out a 52-51 win to claim the tournament's top finish.
Greenwood, which won the last five Tri-Valley League titles, boasted a top-notch offense with three players who averaged over 10 points a game.
That all changed against Sullivan's defense, which allowed just three field goals through the second and third quarters.
"We've dealt with a lot of adversity and the message tonight was we're still going to play defense," Vaughan said. "We knew what they were going to do offensively."
"We base our defense off of man and study teams as much as possible," Wilkins said. "We want to take away their strengths."
Harrison, who scored 11 of the Wildcats first-quarter points, opened the state playoff game with a three for a quick Greenwood lead. From that point on, it was all Sullivan County as Lucas Hatton responded with a quick four points. Zach Meyer also added a trey over the stretch to give Sullivan a 7-3 advantage.
Harrison, though, wasn't done with the game's first trey. His second pulled Greenwood within three, eventually completing the comeback with basket and free throw to end the first down just 15-13.
Both teams exchanged baskets to open the second until a three-point play by Mullen sparked 7-0 to give Sullivan the lead for good.
"We went down, and no matter what Greenwood got we were going to go to our strengths," Vaughan said.
Hatton also chipped in a steal and basket to help Sullivan gain an edge. Hatton finished with eight points, six boards and the steal.
"It's really nice to have a lot of guys that are going to be there for you to help out," Hatton said.
Sullivan County (56)
Zach Meyer 3 2-2 11; Sean Flannery 0 0-0 0; Conner Wylie 5 0-0 10; Adam Szklanka 2 2-2 6; Tyler Sturgis 0 0-0 0; Jordan Beinlich 0 0-0 0; Kelby Mullen 1 3-3 5; Bob Polcrack 0 0-0 0; Tommy Choplick 0 0-0 0; Lucas Hatton 4 0-0 8; Robert Hoffman 0 0-0 0; Miguel Rodriguez 0 0-0 0; Bobby Frank 0 0-0 0; Derek Wilkins 6 3-4 16. Totals 21 10-11 56.
Kevin Sheaffer 0 0-0 0; Tyler Fegley 1 2-2 4; Joshua Ferguson 3 0-0 6; Adam Harrison 6 4-5 18; Joseph Sheaffer 0 2-2 2; Ryan Kerstetter 1 0-0 2; Austin Labont 0 0-0 0; Nicholas Kerstetter 1 0-0 2; Noah Wright 0 0-0 0; Chance Allen 0 0-0 0; Joshua Noll 0 0-0 0; Jordan Rebuck 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 8-9 32
Sullivan County 15 16 13 12-56
Greenwood 13 5 2 12-32
3-point goals: Sullivan County-4 (Meyer 3, Wilkins). Greenwood-2 (Harrison).
Records: Sullivan County (23-3). Greenwood (19-5)
Next: Sullivan County advances to the second round of the PIAA Class A playoffs. TBA.