×

Beagle buzzer-beater lifts Williamsport to dramatic win

Remaining fans chanted his name as he exited the locker room. Minutes earlier, happy teammates swarmed him and Williamsport celebrated a big win together.

It was almost exactly the way JJ Beagle dreamed it would be. And it was countless outside shots taken throughout the offseason and at practices that made it all possible.

Beagle drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer Saturday at the Magic Dome as short-handed Williamsport rallied from a five-point fourth-quarter deficit and edged former nemesis Pottsville, 53-50. The 6-foot-5 forward expanded his game following a breakout junior year and did not hesitate putting up the shot after Kenon Brown passed his way as Williamsport beat an excellent team despite having not practiced since Monday.

“It was pretty amazing. This is the kind of stuff I was thinking about doing when I was watching Williamsport play when I was younger,” Beagle said. “It was great to be able to come through for my team and help us win.”

Williamsport played without starter Xavier Taylor and valuable reserve Jamaire Harden. Because of COVID issues, the team had only practiced Monday and did not meet again until a Saturday afternoon shootaround. Oh yeah, Pottsville had won seven of eight games, recently controlled this annual series, beat Williamsport by 14 last year and played a strong game of its own.

All the excuses were there for the taking, but Williamsport (7-2) pushed them all way. Starters and reserves shined, Williamsport executed well and it won a game which revealed as much about its character as its talent.

“That was a good win. Any time you beat Pottsville it’s a great win because they execute like nobody’s business,” Williamsport coach Allen Taylor said. “I’m proud of the boys. That was huge.”

This was a back and forth game throughout and the lead changed hands 12 times in the first three quarters. When Pottsville went up 46-41 with less than five minutes remaining, though, it appeared Williamsport was in trouble. This is where it felt like conditioning might be a factor and the feisty Millionaires might finally break.

Think again.

Brown scored a game-high 18 points and drove for consecutive baskets which ignited a comeback. Nayim Connelly-Ali made two clutch free throws that put Williamsport ahead 49-48 with 37 seconds remaining before Brown added another. Darren Yost tied it at 50 with two foul shots and Williamsport called timeout with 11.9 seconds left. A week after losing at the buzzer at Holy Redeemer, the Millionaires drew up a play which would flip the script.

Brown looked like he would try and take the last-second shot but when Pottsville collapsed around him on the left wing he spotted Beagle cutting over from the top of the key. Beagle took the pass in stride, planted his feet and released the shot over two defenders. It hit nothing but net as time expired and happy teammates sprinted Beagle’s way.

“They doubled Kenon so I knew he wasn’t going to force up the shot,” Beagle said. “He passed it to me and I wasn’t sure how much time was left but I knew there wasn’t much so I just let it go.”

Beagle scored seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter while adding eight rebounds. He used strong post moves on his two previous field goals and is a weapon near the rim. But the senior knew he could become a more versatile threat if he developed an outside element. So Beagle went to work throughout the offseason and all that work led to quite a moment against Pottsville.

“He’s been shooting all the time. Every time we work out he puts up a number of 3s,” Taylor said. “He has a pretty good shot. He’s been so effective around the basket we try to get him the ball around there, but he definitely can knock that shot down.”

Williamsport nearly knocked down every fourth-quarter shot it took. The Millionaires made 6 of 7 from the field and 3 of 4 at the line while effectively handling Pottsville’s aggressive defense. They also outscored Pottsville, 12-4 over the final 4 minutes, 40 seconds and allowed just one more field goal.

Right when it seemed like a lack of practice time might doom Williamsport, the team’s collective heart took over and pounded strong.

“The one thing we can hang our hat on is our defense. To be able to play through it and find a way says a lot about them,” Taylor said. “To overcome and persevere and find a way to win was really impressive.”

“We have a lot of character on the team,” Beagle said. “Everyone plays well together. Our chemistry is getting better every game. Everyone is moving the ball and play unselfish.”

Brown played an excellent all-around game, grabbing eight rebounds and adding three assists. Elijah Frierson dealt four assists, Connelly-Ali excelled on defense and made all three of shots from the field and line during the final five minutes. George Whaley added nine points, including five in the third as he helped Williamsport take a 37-36 lead into the final quarter.

The bench also delivered. Nelson Macdonald and Zach Lake have not seen a lot of varsity time but they helped fuel a 7-0 first-quarter run which erased a six-point deficit and had Williamsport up one entering the second. Lake made a steal, Macdonald hit a 3-pointer and then found Whaley for a last-second layup as Williamsport changed the gameás complexion. Fellow reserve Caleb Fausnaught had a first-quarter assist and Jakhi Kline provided some valuable minutes as well.

Against a strong opponent and against the odds, Williamsport needed everyone to contribute. That is exactly what these gutsy Millionaires did.

“Our bench came up huge for us. They really got us going in the first quarter,” Beagle said. “We had guys come off the bench and make some big shots and plays and that really turned the momentum.”

Williamsport extended its lead to seven midway through the third quarter when Brown scored five straight points but Pottsville pulled back within one by halftime. The lead switched hands six times in an entertaining third quarter and set the stage for the last-second dramatics.

Williamsport won its second game at the buzzer this season after Brown drained a game-winning jumper against Scranton Prep last month. This also was the third time that Williamsport overcame a deficit of five or more points in the second half.

“We still have a few things to clean up, but that was a great one to get,” Taylor said. “I’m happy for the boys.”

POTTSVILLE (50)

Jazce Showell 7 3-3 19, Darren Yost 3 6-6 13, Mike Sukeena 6 0-0 14, Raeff Dicello 1 2-2 4, Chase Fenstermacher 0 0-0 0, Ryen Matlack 0 0-0 0, Nick Chivinski 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 11-11 50.

WILLIAMSPORT (53)

Kenon Brown 7 3-4 18, Elijah Frierson 2 1-1 6, JJ Beagle 6 0-0 13, Nayim Connelly-Ali 1 2-2 4, George Whaley 4 0-0 9, Caleb Fausnaught 0 0-0 0, Jakhi Kline 0 0-0 0, Nelson Macdonald 1 0-0 3, Zach Lake 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 6-7 53.

Pottsville 13 11 12 14-50

Williamsport 14 11 12 16-53

3-pointers: Pottsville 5 Showell 2, Sukeena 2, Yost); Williamsport 5 (Brown, Frierson, Beagle, Whaley, Macdonald).

Records: Williamsport 7-2. Pottsville 7-4.

JV Score: Williamsport 54-42.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *
   

COMMENTS

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today