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Wellsboro prevents South Williamsport from rallying in boys basketball

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent South Williamsport's Grant Bachman (1) is blocked by Wellsboro’s Hayes Campbell (31) and Liam Manning (13) during the first half of a high school boys basketball game on Friday at South Williamsport.

Darryn Callahan grabbed an offensive rebound before falling hard and crashing onto the hardwood floor.

The thud sounded nasty, but Callahan picked himself up, gathered his thoughts and resumed playing. That sequence perfectly represented Wellsboro Friday night at South Williamsport.

The Green Hornets have suffered heartbreak three times, including twice in a four-day span entering Friday’s game, losing three contests by five points. Still, this team which starts no seniors, keeps grinding and it earned a breakthrough win against a fellow quality District 4 Class AAA team.

South cut an 18-point late third-quarter deficit to six twice in the fourth, but Wellsboro finished strong, allowing just two points over the final three minutes and winning, 54-44. The Hornets (11-3) kept themselves in the hunt for a District 4 Class AAA quarterfinal and handed South (13-4) just its second loss in 15 games.

“It’s always satisfying to finish a game, especially when we’ve struggled at finishing in the fourth quarter,” forward Isaac Keane said after nearly recording a double-double. “Even the games we’ve won we’ve let up runs and tonight we didn’t hesitate. We kept putting it to them in the fourth quarter.”

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent South Williamsport's AJ Flick (5) and Grant Bachman (1) stretch for the rebound around Wellsboro’s Hayes Campbell (31) during the first half of a high school boys basketball game on Friday at South Williamsport.

“It was definitely difficult, but it felt really good to finally finish a game. We did finish a couple, but we had some games where we didn’t finish like we should have,” center Liam Manning said after scoring a game-high 14 points. “We slowed down a little bit, get too nerved up, had some dumb turnovers in those games, but tonight we executed pretty well and played hard till the end.”

Wellsboro is a few plays from being undefeated. In their three losses, the Hornets held fourth-quarter leads each time, including of 16 and seven points. Northeast Bradford banked in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer last Saturday and Troy scored five straight points in the final 30 seconds last Tuesday, hurting Wellsboro’s NTL-I championship hopes.

When South came charging back in the fourth quarter, the Hornets had seen enough. Wellsboro turned up its defense again, made four straight free throws and ran its offense well, delivering the knockout blow against a team two nights removed from a thrilling win at St. John Neumann.

“That was huge. Even in some big wins we felt like we didn’t finish like we should, and we finished tonight,” Wellsboro coach Steve Adams said. “All game we were pretty solid but the last 3 1/2 minutes I thought our decision making on the offensive end was very good.”

Darryn Callahan (8 points, 10 rebounds) ignited a stellar defense and Keane produced 13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. Manning (14 points, eight rebounds) nearly collected his eighth double-double, Conner Adams dealt six assists and Drew Manning and Hayes Campbell shined off the bench.

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Wellsboro's Darryn Callahan (22) moves past South Williamsport's Trent Hampton (13) during the first half of a high school boys basketball game on Friday at South Williamsport.

And when South really turned the pressure up, Wellsboro responded. Keane struggled at the line against Troy but welcomed the pressure when he went there for a 1-and-1 with two minutes remaining and South within six. Keane calmly drained both shots, Adams then found Drew Manning for a layup and then clinched the win when he hit both ends of his 1-and-1.

“I definitely wanted the ball in my hands there,” Keane said. “I struggled in I put the loss on me and put the weight on my back, so it was nice being able to redeem myself.”

South moved up to No. 4 in the Class AAA rankings following the Neumann win, but Wellsboro stymied its offense like few have this season. The Hornets closed the second quarter on a 12-0 run and took a 25-12 halftime lead after not surrendering a second-quarter field goal. Wellsboro steadily built its lead in the third quarter and was up 39-21 in its final minute.

Then South came alive. Secoy Roberts (nine points, four steals) scored the fourth-quarter’s first six points and rapidly the Mounties had the lead cut to seven just two minutes in. Wellsboro responded by scoring on its next three possessions, but South again came charging back. Two Grant Bachman 3-pointers and an Alex Neidig runner had the Mounties within 48-42 at the 3-minute mark, but they could get no closer.

“It was a good sign to see that when we got down by 18 points we did battle back and cut it to six points. It shows signs that we can play with them,” South coach Rob Houseknecht said. “I think we’re still building the confidence of playing with some of these bigger traditional schools. It’s just trying to beat that into our kids that we can play with them if we show up to play the game.”

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Wellsboro's Darryn Callahan (22) grabs a rebound away from South Williamsport's Le Habalar (10) and Secoy Roberts (2) during the first half of a high school boys basketball game on Friday at South Williamsport.

South started well and led 7-5 midway through the first quarter before Wellsboro’s defense started cutting off the inside game. The Hornets switched from man to man and went to a 2-3 zone in second half and both defenses were effective as South often settled for 3-point attempts on a night it was struggling from the perimeter.

Bachman and Roberts, however, hit three fourth-quarter 3-points to help spark the comeback. Evan Laudenslager was strong again as well and again reached double figures in rebounds, finishing with 10 and four steals.

“He’s been very consistent for us down the stretch and it’s helping us stay in games and win games. Everyone think Secoy is the engine that pushes us, and I really think it’s Evan,” Houseknecht said. “Evan really pushes us. He helps us on the defensive end, on the offensive end, on the rebounds. As long as he can stay on the floor and keep doing what he’s doing it’s going to help us these last five games.”

Wellsboro is still hoping it can push its way toward a league championship. The Hornets trail Troy by two games, but host Troy next week. Win out and get some help and Wellsboro could earn at least a share of the crown. Whatever it’s championship fate, Wellsboro’s big goal right now is to build off last night’s performance and finish strong.

“People didn’t really expect much out of us right now except us. We really did expect it,” Adams said. “These guys are good athletes.”

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Wellsboro's Darryn Callahan (22) grabs a rebound away from South Williamsport's Cole Lentz (10) and Secoy Roberts (2) during the first half of a high school boys basketball game on Friday at South Williamsport.

“That’s going to make us more confident as a team. It’s going to help us improve because we’re pretty young and not a lot of us have played in a setting like this before,” Liam Manning said. “They’re quicker and play at a different speed than some of the teams we’ve been playing so I think this will help us in the next few games and maybe in the playoffs as well.”

WELLSBORO (54)

Liam Manning 7 0-0 14, Darryn Callahan 4 0-0 8, Peyton McClure 1 1-2 3, Isaac Keane 5 2-2 13, Conner Adams 3 2-3 8, Drew Manning 2 0-0 4, Hayes Campbell 1 2-2 4. Totals 23 7-9 54.

SOUTH (44)

Secoy Roberts 2 4-5 9, Evan Laudenslager 1 2-3 4, Grant Bachman 5 0-0 12, Trent Hampton 2 0-0 5, Ben Manning 3 1-1 7, Landon Sanford 0 1-2 1, Lee Habalar 1 0-0 2, Alex Neidig 1 0-0 2, Caden Harris 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 8-11 44.

Wellsboro 11 14 14 15–54

South 9 3 12 20–44

3-pointers: Wellsboro 1 (Keane); South 4 (Bachman 2, Roberts, Hampton).

JV score: South 47-39.

Records: Wellsboro (11-3), South (13-4).

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