By Rich Rhoades
DUBOIS – Way back in December, the Bradford Owls
started their boys’ basketball season at the same time the football team
was playing in the PIAA Western Region Final.
Now it’s time for the basketball version of the Owls to do the same thing.
The Bradford Owls rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to beat the
Lewistown Panthers, 62-56, in overtime Friday night at the DuBois Area Middle
School to advance to the PIAA Class AAA Western Region Finals.
It’s the first time the Owls (21-6) have been this far. The only time Bradford
had reached the Western Region semifinals was in 1995 when a loss to Butler
ended their perfect season.
"One of the parents said that 1995 was the ‘Dream Team,’ maybe this is the
‘Beyond Your Wildest Dream Team,’ Bradford head coach Dave Fuhrman said.
"It’s been that kind of a year. Who would have thought, we started the year
1-2, we lose to Mercyhurst Prep on the road, 50-39. Who’d think we’d be one
game away from Hershey playing in the Western Final. These guys stayed the
course and they’re being rewarded for their perseverance."
The Owls meet WPIAL champion Moon Tuesday at a site and time to be announced.
Moon defeated Perry, 59-58.
Bradford (21-6) didn’t take its first lead of the game until Jon Hannon banked
in a three-pointer to put the Owls up 55-52 with 2:30 left in overtime. From
there, the Owls hit seven of nine free throws the rest of the way.
The Owls forced overtime when Stuart Morris hit a driving layup in a crowd
with one second left in regulation.
It was Morris’ first basket and only points off the bench.
"That’s exactly why I put him in the game, because he can put the ball on
the floor and go to the basket," Fuhrman said. "He didn’t play a whole heckuva
lot in the game, but comes off the bench and makes the big play to get us
Lewistown fans had to leave DuBois shaking their heads, considering what
happened down the stretch from the foul line.
Lewistown (26-5) had a chance to put the game away when their best player,
Joe Stewart, was on the foul line with 9.1 seconds left and the Panthers
up 50-48. But Stewart missed both shots, the second an airball.
For three quarters, the 6-foot-5-inch Stewart, who will attend Division I
Richmond on a football scholarship, was unstoppable. He finished with 22
points and 13 rebounds. But only two points came in the fourth quarter and
Stewart combined with sophomore guard Matt Hilton to carry the Panthers offensively
and give them a dangerous inside-outside threat. Hilton scored 14 points.
But Lewistown was 6-of-14 from the foul line as a team, including 4-of-12
in the second half.
"This one is going to sting for awhile in that we feel that we gave one back
and that’s to take nothing away from Bradford," Lewistown head coach Aaron
Gingrich said. "They played extremely hard. They are a physical, athletic
bunch of kids. But taking that lead into the second half and having the opportunity
to win, that’s going to hurt."
Hannon led the Owls with 21 points and eight rebounds. He made four of five
three-pointers, including a 30-foot hail mary to close the third quarter
and get the Owls within 44-39.
Combined with his defensive assignment against Stewart inside and his clutch
long-range shooting that included the bank-shot three in overtime, it was
a night to remember for the senior forward.
"The one at the end (of the third quarter) was just a throw, really. I’m
not going to lie about it. The one in overtime, I called bank. I told the
coaches I did in the timeout," said Hannon, smiling sarcastically.
"What a game he played, on both ends of the floor. He had his hands full
in there. He battled (Stewart) giving up 4-5 inches," Fuhrman said. "He stuck
some big perimeter shots. He deserves a little bit of luck. He’s just worked
his tail off. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a basketball player come so far
from his ninth grade year to his senior year."
Kyle Swanson and Shawn Manning each scored 11 points. All of Swanson’s points,
which included three three-pointers, came in the Owls’ 20-point third quarter.
"(Swanson) got hot. We needed somebody to get hot from the perimeter and
he got hot. He stuck some threes and that gave us some life. We were starting
to work our way back in. That’s big," Fuhrman said. "Had they maintained
the lead going into the fourth quarter, we may not make the comeback. I think
our kids thought, he was sticking some shots, that we had a chance. We were
in the game in the fourth quarter."
"Kyle Swanson played a heckuva second half," Manning said. "He came out and
told me to get him the ball. We got him the ball and he hit the shots. He
was our leader tonight."
Lewistown jumped out to a 10-0 lead to start the game and led 17-10 by the
end of the first quarter. The Panthers led by as many as 13 points in the
second quarter and closed the first half with a 31-19 advantage.
It was time for a halftime chat in the Owls locker room.
"We just challenged them. We thought they were outhustling us, really, the
first half. We were standing around a lot on offense," Fuhrman said. "We
knew their game plan would be to take it inside. … We just challenged them
at halftime and told them we have to get up and play harder, dive down in
there, make them kick it out, do whatever you got to do to get more pressure
on the guards and I thought we did."
The Panthers led by as many as 13 early in the third quarter before the Owls
steadily cut into the lead, outscoring the Panthers, 20-13, in the third.
The Owls turning up the heat defensively eventually wore the Panthers down.
"We went back to playing our regular defense because we had to give Jon a
little more help there in the low post," Fuhrman said. "I really think they
got a little tired in the fourth quarter. They only scored six points in
the fourth quarter."
The trend continued into the fourth quarter as the Owls tied the game for
the first time when Shawn Spindler hit one of two free throws at the 4:45
mark. They didn’t tie it again until Morris tied it at 50-50 to force extra
"We just decided in the locker room that we were going to come out and play
with pride and whatever happens, happens," Manning said. "We put our pride
to the test and fortunately we won out."
BRADFORD 62, LEWISTOWN 56, OT
Score By Quarters
Lewistown 17 14 13 6 6 - 56
Bradford 10 9 20 11 12 - 62
Lewistown – 56
Joe Stewart 10-18 2-6 22, Chris Tressler 3-8 0-0 6, Nathan Powell
3-7 1-3 7, Matt Hilton 5-15 1-2 14, Jonathan Baker 2-2 0-0 5, Michael
Baker 0-3 2-2 2, Nathan Helder 0-0 0-1 0. Totals: 23-53 6-14 56.
Bradford – 62
Sean Hvizdzak 1-4 2-3 4, Kyle Swanson 4-10 0-0 11, Shawn Spindler
3-6 1-2 7, Jon Hannon 5-9 7-8 21, Shawn Manning 4-12 3-4 11, Jake
Wells 1-5 0-0 2, Stuart Morris 1-4 0-0 2, Shane Hvizdzak 1-2 0-0 2, Jeff
Kleinberger 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 21-52 13-17 62.
Three-pointers: Lewistown 3-10 (Stewart 0-2, Hilton 3-8, M. Baker 0-2),
Bradford 7-20 (Swanson 3-9, Hannon 4-5, Manning 0-1, Wells 0-2, Morris 0-2,
Sh. Hvizdzak 0-1). Rebounds: Lewistown 34 (Stewart 13), Bradford
32 (Hannon 8). Turnovers: Lewistown 10, Bradford 7.