BLOSSBURG - A gym full of enthusiastic North Penn fans loudly and proudly sang the school's alma mater before Thursday's game against rival Mansfield. They never quieted down, either, and were still rocking late in the game, chanting, "We are North Penn!"
Thursday could have been a sad night in Blossburg. It could have been a wake. Instead, it was a celebration. And the North Penn boys basketball team produced a Hollywood-type ending.
Dayton Wood and Levi Christman combined for 21 second-half points and ignited a deep and balanced performance as North Penn defeated top rival Mansfield, 60-50 in what likely was the final home game in North Penn history. The school will likely close come June as the Southern Tioga school district shrinks, but North Penn (14-6) made sure its last home game was one to remember.
"That's what everyone dreams of," Christman said. "You dream of having moments like that."
North Penn won its seventh straight after winning just three games last year. It also avenged a previous defeat to Mansfield (15-6) and beat a NTL-II co-leader for the second time in two nights after downing Sayre on Tuesday.
The Panthers used second-half runs of 13-0 and 15-1 to move in front and then put away Mansfield while snapping its seven-game winning streak. As soon as the buzzer sounded, Wood raised his arms high and then motioned the boisterous student section onto the floor.
A split second later, Wood and his teammates were engulfed by deliriously happy fans. It was a scene the players and North Penn fans likely will never forget.
"That was the first time that (rushing the court) has ever happened to us," Wood said. "Being against Mansfield and knowing this could be the last game at North Penn, it was something special."
"You really couldn't write a script much better than that," North Penn coach Jeff Manikowski said. "If that was our last game and we go out at home beating one of our biggest rivals, it doesn't get much better than that."
With former players, including those that led North Penn to NTL-West and District 4 Class A championships in the last decade, looking on, the Panthers dominated the second half. North Penn scored 41 points against a solid defensive team and led by as many as 16 before Mansfield made a furious late rally.
The Tigers took a five-point lead early in the third quarter when Chandler Correll (12 points) and Brady Andrews hit consecutive 3-pointers. In the past, that kind of sequence might have buried North Penn but now the Panthers come back swinging.
Christman and Wood each scored eight points in the third quarter and Christman's hustling putback off a missed free throw ignited the 13-0 run that put North Penn up eight and changed the game's complexion. Wood hit a jumper with 10 seconds remaining in the quarter, giving North Penn a 39-30 lead and making it hard to hear as the fans cheered in ecstasy.
"We kept pushing the ball down the court and every time we took the ball down the court it seemed like we'd score no matter what and we kept feeding off that," said Christman, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds. "The crowd gave us tons of momentum and we just fed off that."
Wood finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists and his dish to Keynan Arredondo put North Penn up 47-31 with 5:40 remaining. Mansfield never rolled over as Bo Burleigh (18 points) heated up and pulled his team within seven at the 2-minute mark after making a steal and a behind the back pass to Jordan Williams.
This, though, was North Penn's night. Wood responded by finding Dylan Rudinksi for a layup before he and Cody Crum put the game away at the foul line. The future might be uncertain at North Penn, but its players seized the moment and then owned it.
"It's pretty special, especially since we had all the fans come out," Wood said. "They packed up the Pit and that's something we wanted to do all year."
North Penn rewarded its fans with one of its most complete performances. Manikowski went 10-deep and his bench came up huge, producing 21 points and 17 rebounds. Luke Kelly grabbed nine rebounds while Konnor Manikowski helped North Penn overcome a sluggish start by scoring six second-quarter points.
No Panther dominated, but together they were quite formidable. Four players scored at least nine points and North Penn hit 15 of 26 second-half shots.
"Unofficially we know it's our last year but it's not official yet. We can kind of see the writing on the wall," Manikowski said. "We just try not to play it up too much but in the back of our minds we knew this was the last time not just for the seniors to walk out of here but everyone and it was a great way to go out."
Bo Burleigh 6 6-9 18, Brady Andrews 1 2-4 5, Bryce Zaparzynski 1 2-4 5, J.P. Shaw 0 0-0 0, Chandler Correll 5 0-0 12, Ryan Campbell 2 0-2 5, Jordan Williams 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 10-19 50.
NORTH PENN (60)
Dayton Wood 4 4-5 13, Kaynen Arredondo 4 0-2 8, Cody Crum 1 3-4 6, Dylan Rudinski 3 3-4 9, Levi Christman 4 1-2 10, Konnor Manikowski 2 1-1 6, Brad Brubaker 1 0-1 2, Ryan Bogaczyk 0 0-0 0, Luke Kelly 2 2-2 6, Nick Mahonski 0 0-2 0. Totals 21 14-23 60.
Mansfield6 12 12 20-50
North Penn4 15 20 21-60
3-pointers: Mansfield 6 (Correll 2, Andrews, Zaparzynski, Campell, Williams); North Penn 4 (Wood, Crum, Christman, Manikowski).
Records: North Penn 14-6, 10-5 NTL-II. Mansfield 15-6, 13-3.
JV Score: Mansfield 56-49