Hughesville wins thriller; Sullivan County captures championship
By CHRIS MASSE
HUGHESVILLE–It left its gym tired and disappointed Saturday afternoon. Hughesville returned a few hours later energized and determined. This time it exited victorious.
Playing its second game in less than eight hours, Hughesville never wore down and never gave in against a tough Sullivan County team Saturday night. The Spartans blocked out the fatigue, Carter Cowburn delivered under pressure and they won a game that revealed as much about their character as their talent.
Cowburn made three straight free throws in the final 40 seconds, grabbed three rebounds in the last minute and also blocked a potential layup as Hughesville won a 45-41 thriller over Sullivan County in the final game of the belated Bill Babcock Tournament. That game started 5 ½ hous following a 66-56 overtime loss against Jersey Shore when Damian McAllister denied Hughesville a regulation win after hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
All three teams went 1-1 in the round robin tournament, so Sullivan County won the championship based on the points differential tie-breaker. It edged out Jersey Shore and Hughesville following three close games determined by 22 combined points.
“We found out who really wants to compete and who wants to go all-out and with our guys everybody,” Cowburn said after scoring 13 points, pulling down 9 rebounds and blocking 3 shots. “We all just put our hearts out there and played our best and to our full potential. We gutted through and got it done.”
It was a big win for a team that has lost several close games, including two in overtime. Tournament MVP Jalen Thomas willed Sullivan back into the game after Hughesville took an eight-point second-quarter lead and the Griffins were up by two midway through the fourth quarter.
This time the young Spartans, who have no seniors, flipped the script they had seen so many times before and wrote a new one. Cam Fetterman hit a go-ahead 3-pointer which put Hughesville up, 39-37 and it led from there.
“I’m proud of our guys. They stayed tough,” Hughesville coach Nick Tagliaferri said. “It’s one of those things in your maturation process where you’re playing two games in a day and you’re a little tired, little weary and bumped up but you find a way to win the game. That’s what matters. You stay together down the stretch. We did a lot of positive things.”
Cowburn and Dylan Bieber earned all-tournament honors and Cowburn was at his best in the final minute. Thomas pulled Sullivan within 42-41 at the 1 minute, 25 second mark and the Griffins had multiple chances to take the lead but missed four straight foul shots. Cowburn corralled the rebounds following the second-shot misses each time and sank both ends of a 1-and-1 with 40 seconds remaining.
The sophomore forward delivered defensively seconds later, blocking a potential layup. Sullivan County forced a turnover and had one last chance to tie, but a 3-pointer was off the mark. Again, Cowburn grabbed the rebound and he clinched the win with another free throw in the last second.
“I love being in that situation. Just to have the opportunity to be here is a blessing,” Cowburn said. “The Jersey Shore game going to overtime was upsetting but to come out here and compete our hearts out feels amazing.”
“Carter is having a really underrated season. He really wants to be a great player and he allows me to push him. He asks me to push him,” Tagliaferri said. “Sometimes we butt heads on stuff but he’s come a long way from last year to this year and that’s with us not having an offseason. He has a chance to be really good.”
Thomas was really good for Sullivan County, scoring 18 points, adding six rebounds and making two steals. The senior point guard took over in the second quarter after Hughesville went up eight and had a hand in eight of the next 12 points as the Griffins pulled within two at halftime.
Josh Heiney and Luke Kaiser played excellent defense against Thomas but the team leader still helped Sullivan take two fourth-quarter leads and fearlessly attacked the basket.
“The biggest thing about him is he doesn’t care about his own stats. He doesn’t care about the MVP plaque he has right now. I guarantee you he would trade that in to have a 2-0 record this weekend,” Sullivan coach Glenn Vaughan said. “It’s been really fun to watch him develop as a leader and person. His heart and toughness have been super impressive this year.”
Sullivan nearly went 2-0 despite not having leading scorer Trace Neary Saturday night. An already young team earned more valuable pressure experience and multiple reserves made key plays at opportune times, including Owen Schweitzer who early in the fourth quarter put Sullivan County ahead for the first time since the first.
The Griffins (6-6) defeated Jersey Shore Friday night and have won five of seven games since starting 1-4. The two losses suffered during that stretch have been by seven combined points.
“We were 1-4 and I just asked the players to not just jump off the cliff that everyone else was jumping off because people expect us to be better than that and that’s fine. It’s a credit to the guys who have played in previous years that people expect us to be better than that,” Vaughan said. “We didn’t jump off the cliff and we kept getting better and better even without practices. You build off this. We’re turning the corner and I don’t think that I would want to see us in the postseason.”
Mikey Dylina played strong defense for Hughesville and collected six rebounds while Nick Trevouledes overcame leg cramping issues to score eight points and deal three assists.
Hughesville rallied from nine down in fourth quarter of the day’s first game against Jersey Shore and was a second from victory before McAllister hit his buzzer-beating 3-pointer to force overtime. The Bulldogs (7-11) outscored Hughesville, 12-2 in overtime and tournament all-star McAllister produced 24 points, three assists and three steals.
It was a big win for Jersey Shore after it had struggled to close games out earlier this season, including last Tuesday against Shamokin. It came at a key time, too, with the playoffs less than two weeks away.
“This was an important win for us in several ways. We’re trying to improve our playoff seeding, but more importantly, we’re trying to change our mentality,” Jersey Shore coach Scott Munro said. “We’ve been in several close games this year and it seems like we’ve been playing no to lose rather than playing to win. We flipped our mentality and played in overtime to win the game instead of playing scared.”
Owen Bloom was outstanding for Jersey Shore, scoring a career 14 points, grabbing 8 rebounds and blocking six shots. Tristan Gallick scored 15 points and Kyle Mundrick came up big with starting guard Cayden Hess out, dealing five assists and grabbing five rebounds. Branden Wheary added six rebounds and Jersey Shore produced momentum for a playoff push entering the regular-season’s final week.
“We got our best bench contributions all year on both ends of the floor. Owen Bloom especially was a difference-maker,” Munro said. “We’re hoping we can keep moving forward in both ways here at the end of the season.”
Jalen Thomas 5 8-10 18, Alex Schweitzer 1 2-7 5, Riley King 2 0-0 4, Trey Higley 2 0-0 4, Gerhett Parrish 3 0-0 6, Bryon Fitzgerald 1 0-2 2, Owen Schweitzer 1 0-0 2, Ben Carpenter 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 10-19 41.
Carter Cowburn 3 7-10 13, Dylan Bieber 2 2-2 6, Nick Trevouledes 3 1-2 8, Josh Heiney 1 0-0 3, Mikey Dylina 2 0-2 4, Luke Kaiser 0 0-0 0, Trent Knarr 1 0-0 2, Ethan Woolcock 1 0-0 2, Cam Fetterman 2 1-2 7. Totals 15 11-20 45.
Sullivan 8 14 11 8–41
Hughesville 10 14 9 12–45
3-pointers: Sullivan 1 (A Schweitzer); Hughesville 4 (Fetterman 2, Trevouledes, Heine).
Records: Hughesville 3-14. Sullivan County 6-6.
Jersey Shore 66, Hughesville 56, OT
JERSEY SHORE (65)
Damian Williams 1 2-3 4, Tristan Gallick 6 1-3 15, DJ Steinbacher 0 0-0 0, Cam Embick 1 0-0 3, Kyle Mundrick 1 0-0 3, Logan Bailey 1 0-0 3, Branden Wheary 0 0-0 0, Damian McAllister 9 2-5 24, Owen Bloom 6 1-1 14. Totals 25 6-12 56.
Josh Heiney 0 0-0 0, Nick Trevouldedes 2 6-6 10, Mikey Dylina 1 2-2 4, Dylan Bieber 6 1-2 15, Carter Cowburn 6 3-7 15, Ethan Woolcock 0 0-0 0, Trent Knarr 3 0-0 7, Luke Kasier 2 0-0 5, Cam Fetterman 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 12-17 56.
Jersey Shore 15 18 9 12 12–66
Hughesville 13 10 10 21 2–56
3-pointers: Jersey Shore 10 (McAllister 4, Gallick 2, Embick, Mundrick, Bailey, Bloom); Hughesville 4 (Bieber 2, Knarr, Kaiser).
Records: Jersey Shore 7-11.
All-Tournament Team: Carter Cowburn, Hughesville; Dylan Bieber, Hughesville; Tristan Gallick, Jersey Shore; Damian McAllister, Jersey Shore; Alex Schweitzer, Sullivan County. Tournament MVP–Jalen Thomas, Sullivan County