SUNBURY - Some Lewisburg players lay motionless. Others held their hands above their heads. All looked stunned.
Mo Blackwell was just as stunned he was playing at all in those final frantic few seconds at Shikellamy Saturday. The junior forward said he plays little but there he was with 0.7 seconds left, hitting the biggest shot in Mid Valley history.
Blackwell scored on a buzzer-beating putback as Mid Valley edged Lewisburg, 58-57 in a Class AA first-round state tournament thriller. The Dragons overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and the lead changed hands six times in the last three minutes with Blackwell ending the drama and lifting the Spartans to their first-ever state tournament win.
Sam Allen (32) of Lewisburg loses the ball as Mid Valley’s Alex Prislupsky (5) closes in Saturday night at Shikellamy High School. In back is Mid?Valley’s A.J. Gangemi (4). View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"The play was designed for my friend Jason Kenny. I saw it hit the rim, it came off hard and I got the rebound," Blackwell said. "Honestly, I just threw it up. I didn't know how much time was left and I just tossed it up."
Mid Valley (23-4) moves onto Tuesday's second round and faces the state's No. 1-ranked team Constitution. Lewisburg concluded the best season in program history with a 23-4 record and its first district championship since 2000.
The Dragons lost on a buzzer-beater for a second time this season after erasing a 17-point second-quarter deficit and hitting 14 of 20 second-half shots.
"What a great basketball game," Lewisburg coach John Vaji said. "The boys played their hearts out and Mid Valley played their hearts out. It was just a great game to be a part of."
Jesse Flannery (13 points, 4 steals) put Lewisburg ahead for the first time, 51-50 with three minutes left, hitting a long jumper. That set in motion a dramatic fight to the finish with both teams trading big plays and clutch shots.
Sam Allen (12 points, 3 assists) hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 10.6 seconds remaining, giving Lewisburg a 57-56 lead. Mid Valley called a timeout before taking the ball out under Lewisburg's basket.
Alex Prislupsky (25 points) appeared to walk near the top of the key, but no violation was called and his jumper was off the mark. Allen blocked the ensuing shot before Blackwell grabbed the rebound just under the basket's right side. The junior was in perfect position, put the shot off before the buzzer and a split second later was engulfed a in a sea of blue as teammates and jubilant students celebrated at midcourt.
"It was great," Blackwell said. "Usually in big games I don't play too many meaningful minutes. I play a few seconds and give my teammates a break, but my coach trusted me and I played physical and it paid off."
Prislupsky was a force, scoring 23 points through three quarters and helping Mid Valley lead 47-37. Lewisburg, however, was relentless in the fourth quarter, forcing five turnovers, excelling in all facets and quickly changing the game's complexion.
The Dragons hit 8 of 11 fourth-quarter shots as all five players scored. Flannery took over in the second half, scoring 11 of his 13 points, while Allen, Will Sigl, Matt Fedorajka and Nadir Boone all scoring in double figures.
Boone started guarding Prislupsky and excelled as Lewisburg turned defense into offense. The Dragons took the lead after going on an 8-0 run and retook it two more times, on a Boone (10 points, 9 rebounds) putback and Allen's free throws.
"We knew we just had to be more aggressive than we had been. We knew it could happen," Flannery said. "All of us have seen it happen and we have the skill to make it happen. It was upbeat (in the fourth quarter) but knew we had to get out on them and make something happen."
Mid Valley stunned Lewisburg early with its pressure defense, forcing seven first-quarter turnovers and building a 22-8 lead. The Dragons cut it to eight in the second before Prislupsky hit the first of three straight NBA-range 3-pointers to make it 33-22 at halftime.
Prislupsky scored seven straight points in the third quarter and extended Mid Valley's lead to 15. Right when it appeared Lewisburg might be finished, the District 4 champions fought off the ropes and responded with some huge punches in what became a heavyweight slugfest.
"That's the way we've been all season. These kids have too much pride to just lay down and say we're not going to do it," Vaji said. "To be down 10 and come back and take lead a couple times, it was just a great effort."
Boone helped ignite Lewisburg's comeback and had 8 points and 4 rebounds off the bench in the second quarter. He was one of many players who excelled down the stretch and helped Lewisburg reach some rare air in 2014.
"It's been amazing. This one hurts but I wouldn't want to do it with any other guys," Flannery said. "It was a fun ride."
Alex Prislupsky 8 6-11 25, Jason Kenny 3 2-2 9, Martin Walsh 3 0-1 7, A.J. Gangemi 2 1-4 5, Tyler Collins 2 1-1 5, Mo Blackwell 3 1-2 7. Totals 21 11-21 58.
Sam Allen 4 4-8 12, Will Sigl 3 4-5 10, Matt Fedorajka 4 2-2 10, Jesse Flannery 6 0-2 13, Nick Costagliola 1 0-0 2, Nadir Boone 5 0-0 10, Drew Newcomb 0 0-0 0, Tanner Host 0 0-0 0, Ben Frankel 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 10-17 57.
Mid Valley22 11 14 11-58
Lewisburg8 14 15 20-57
3-pointers: Mid Valley 5 (Prislupsky 3, Kenny, Walsh); Lewisburg 1 (Flannery).
Records: Mid Valley 23-4. Lewisburg 23-4.