Decade’s best No. 8: Lewisburg put together its best season in 2016
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a ‘Best of the Decade’ series looking back at the top 10 football, girls and boys basketball, softball and baseball teams, coaches, games and players of the last decade.
After it won the 2000 District 4 Class AA championship, Lewisburg needed 14 years to duplicate that achievement. After winning the 2014 championship, it had no intention of repeating that title drought again. This time, it took the Green Dragons just two years to win another championship. And this time they did it as a Class AAA team.
Lewisburg put together its best year ever in 2016, capturing both league and district championships in impressive fashion while winning a program-record 26 games. The Dragons went 26-3, started 19-0 and reached the state tournament’s second round for the first time since 2000 before losing to perennial powerhouse Imhotep. Seniors Sam Allen and Matt Fedorjaka led the way and were part of a decorated senior class which finished their scholastic careers a remarkable 92-13.
“I’m really proud of the way we improved from the first game of the season till now both on the court and our chemistry off the court is tremendous,” Allen said after capping a second straight all-state season against Imhotep. “I’m really proud of everyone on the team because it takes a real team effort to win 26 games and a state playoff game. To be part of the winningest class in history and get the (individual) scoring record, it hasn’t all sunk in yet. I really enjoyed it and I want to thank my teammates and parents for their support the whole time. It’s been a blast.”
Lewisburg erupted throughout the season. Allen was a first team all-state selection and earned Sun-Gazette Player of the Year for a second straight season after topping 1,800 career points and 900 rebounds. Matt Fedorjaka was a first team HAC-II and Sun-Gazette all-star, averaging 16.3 points and 4.9 assists per game, while draining 49 3-pointers. They were the only two starters returning from a 21-win team which lost to Shamokin in the 2015 district semifinals.
But what a foundation those two provided. And when players like Joey Orr, Nate Liscum and freshman Dylan Farronato developed into threats, Lewisburg really took off. Adam Cole was the team’s defensive stopper, Malik Hudges provided quality production off the bench and the Dragons were as well-rounded offensively as they were tenacious defensively.
Most of Lewisburg’s players were multi-sport athletes who experienced big success in those other sports. Fedorjaka went on to play Division I lacrosse, Cole and Liscum were part of a state champion soccer team and the big-game experience in other sports provided a lift at key times during this championship campaign.
“It’s a struggle sometimes to balance all three, but it keeps me fresh and always pushes me to get better,” Fedorajaka, also a football player, said that season. “Our team is filled with super athletes, from soccer state champions to track stars, so its a big part of what makes our team go.”
And go Lewisburg did ambushing many of its opponents, averaging 62 points per game and outscoring them by 19 points per game. The Dragons went undefeated in league play to win the HAC-II title, a league which had produced seven straight district champions since its inception. They also routed 15 opponents by more than 20 points, swept two games from District 4 Class AAA champion Danville by 36 points and 19-win Hughesville by 33 points.
Lewisburg started 19-0 before dropping an exciting, back-and-forth contest at District 2-4 Class 6A runner-up Williamsport, 65-57. The Dragons tasted defeat again in the HAC Tournament finals, losing to Shamokin, 61-56.
Lewisburg turned that negative into a positive and went into overdrive for districts. The Dragons ran over Milton and Montoursville by 68 combined points. Farronato scored a career-high 29 points against Milton and Lewisburg beat Montoursville, 73-43, before setting their sights on a coveted rematch against Shamokin.
When they met two weeks earlier, Shamokin rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit. This time, Lewisburg dominated the second half. The Dragons erased a halftime deficit, kept extending their lead throughout the final two quarters and captured their second district championship in three years with an emphatic 63-49 win.
Lewisburg kept the good times rolling a week later, thumping Blue Mountain, 72-58, for the program’s first state tournament victory since the seniors were 3 and 4 years old. Fedorjaka scored 30 points and Allen recorded another double-double as Lewisburg enhanced its legacy some more.
The journey ended against Imhotep, but the senior graduated having orchestrated the best four-year run Lewisburg basketball had ever seen. During that time, Lewisburg won at least 21 games each season, two district championships and all but 13 of its 105 games. They also set a standard and the returning players built off that success a year later when Lewisburg won the District 4 Class AAAA championship, its third district title in three classes since 2014.
“The kids just had an unbelievable season. I can’t thank them enough for what they did,” Lewisburg coach John Vaji said after the final game. “A district title, winning a state game, 26-3 … what more can you ask from them.”