MANSFIELD - Sullivan County point guard Sean Flannery stood near midcourt, dribbling time away while surveying the scene. He was right where he wanted to be.
This game, this moment was his and his teammates.
Flannery played one of his best scholastic games of his career and Sullivan County played tremendous defense while overwhelming Galeton over the final three quarters and defeating it, 44-29 in Tuesday's District 4 Class A semifinal at Mansfield University's Decker Gymnasium.
Conner Wylie of Sullivan County, left, looks to shoot as Galeton’s Bob Williams defends Tuesday at Mansfield.
"I love the pressure. It's kind of crazy having all these people behind you, supporting you," Flannery said. "We have we play together and work hard and it's paying off."
Flannery did it all last night, helping Sullivan (19-5) secure its third straight championship appearance and fourth straight state tournament berth. Sullivan will meet defending champion St. John Neumann for a third straight year in a championship series the rivals have split.
Flannery scored a game-high 16 points, dealt four assists, made four steals and grabbed four rebounds. He also kept Sullivan in the game early, had a hand in seven of its first eight points and hit 5 of his 8 shots, including four 3-pointers.
"I felt pretty good from the start," Flannery said. "When I hit my first shot it felt like it was going to be a good night. my teammates kept giving me the ball and kept giving me good shots and I kept making them."
The senior was one of the game's smallest players but stood tall all night. Flannery changed the game's complexion at the end of the first quarter with a steal and assist to Conner Wylie at the buzzer.
Sullivan trailed by 10 before that buzzer-beating play but outscored Galeton 30-4 over the next two quarters while building a 36-20 advantage.The play breathed life into Sullivan after Galeton's torrid start and both teams were never the same.
"I thought he defended really well. Sean did excellent job," Sullivan coach Glenn Vaughan said. "We were having a hard time scoring early and Sean hit a couple huge shots to get us in the game. He's that kid that shows that emotion and he gets guys fired up and ready to play. He was clutch."
Flannery made another big play to end the first half, draining a 3-pointer to make it 22-18. The way the Griffins were playing defense, the lead felt more like 24. During a 14-minute span that bridged the first and third quarters, Sullivan alowed just 1 field goal against the district's No. 2 seed and by the time Galeton (19-5) hit its second field goal, it was down 11 midway through the fourth quarter.
Sullivan's defense swarmed Galeton and Jordan Beinlich cooled 1,000-point scorer Dakota Shadle (14 points) after he scored 10 points in the game's first 10 minutes. Flannery was as big defensively as he was offensively and held Jake Batterson, who shined in a quarterfinal win over Millville, to just three points.
"Coach Vaughan stresses defense a lot and we practice defense hard every single day and this team knew that defense is going to win championships and get us back to states," senior captain Conner Wylie said. "Each one of our teammates has stepped pu their performance on defense."
Galeton forced eight first-quarter turnovers, but Sullivan effectively and efficiently ran its offense from there and had just three turnovers over the final three quarters. Wylie was outstanding again inside, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds while Adam Szklanka had eight rebounds and a game-high five assists. Bob Polcrack hit two 3-pointers at key times and a program accustomed to shining in the biggest games did so again.
Despite losing four starters to graduation, the Griffins are back in familiar territory.
"It's something that I believed from last March we were capable of doing," Vaughan said. "Luckily we have the kids in the program who believe in what we're doing and buy into game plans and what we do in practice that got us back to this point."
Galeton is one of the district's most improved teams and made a statement early. A year after trailing Sullivan 41-3 at halftime, the Tigers built a 16-6 first-quarter lead and hit four straight 3-pointers.
Sullivan, though, is used to big-game pressure and overcame a similar slow start in the quarterfinals against Lourdes. The Griffins played well in all facets over the next two quarters and outscored Galeton, 28-4 during that time.
Conner Wylie 7 1-2 15, Jordan Beinlich 0 0-0 0, Sean Flannery 5 2-3 16, Adam Szklanka 2 1-4 5, Tyler Lovelady 1 0-0 2, Bobby Frank 0 0-0 0, Bob Polcrack 2 0-1 6. Totals 17 4-10 44.
McKinley Ward 2 0-0 5, Bob Williams 1 0-0 2, Jake Batterson 1 0-0 3, Mitchell Smith 3 0-0 7, Dakota Shadle 5 0-0 12. Totals 12 0-0 29.
Sullivan8 14 14 8--44
Galeton16 2 2 9--29
3-pointers: Sullivan 6 (Flannery 4, Polcrack 2); Galeton 5 (Shadle 2, Ward, Batterson, Smith)
Records: Sullivan 19-5. Galeton 19-5.