HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Apollo-Ridge boys lose Tipton, but beat West Shamokin
NuMINE — Blunders quickly snowballed for the Apollo-Ridge boys’ basketball team in the minutes that followed the game-ending injury suffered by go-to scorer Tre Tipton in the fourth quarter Friday night.
But just as things began to unravel and their momentum seemingly subsided, the once-beaten Vikings regained their composure and made a handful of key plays to stave off a late push from WPIAL Section 1-AA rival West Shamokin for a 57-44 win.
Apollo-Ridge (11-1 overall, 3-1 section) withstood the loss of Tipton and its 14 second-half turnovers and mounted an 8-4 run in the last three minutes of the game to upend the Wolves (9-2, 1-2).
“This was a huge game. Any time you come up to West Shamokin and get a win you did something right because (coach) Mike (Nagy) always has those guys ready to play,” Apollo-Ridge coach Matt Gourley said. “We knew coming in that West Shamokin was one of the front-runners to win the section, so to come up here and get a win is just huge. I was especially proud of how the kids played at the end of the game. We came unraveled for a minute or two but we played pretty solid the last two or three minutes.”
The Vikings led by 13 points, 49-36, when Tipton collided with a West Shamokin player and left the game with a shoulder injury with 5:55 left in the fourth quarter. He left with a game-high 17 points.
Apollo-Ridge committed turnovers on its next four possessions, and in the meantime, West Shamokin’s Jake Hough hit 3 of 4 free throws and Zac Horner nailed 1 of 2, and the Wolves trimmed the Vikings’ lead to nine points, 49-40.
After a missed 3-point field goal from the Wolves’ Zane Clowser, and another Apollo-Ridge turnover, Alex Smith stole a West Shamokin pass and made an off-balance fastbreak layup to make it an 11-point game, 51-40, with 3:03 to play.
Roughly a minute later, freshman Duane Brown grabbed an offensive rebound before banking in a layup in the paint to extend the Vikings’ lead back to 13 points, 55-42.
With a rowdy student section attempting to distract him, Brown coolly buried a pair of free throws with 1:28 to play and all but sealed the win by putting Apollo-Ridge ahead by 13 points, 57-44.
“Coach (Gourley) makes us shoot about 20 free throws a day, so we thrive off those situations,” Brown said. “I definitely knew I had to step up when Tre went down. He’s a big part of our team, scoring and controlling the ball, so when I saw that, I knew it was time for me to step up and score, control the ball and get turnovers.”
Apollo-Ridge went on an 8-0 spurt to finish the first quarter and carried a six-point lead, 17-11, into the second. Tipton, Dom Schrecengost and Smith each scored in the burst, and Maurice Stankus drilled 2 of 2 free throws.
Although guarded closely and sometimes double-teamed, Tipton momentarily found a groove late in the first half, hitting field goals on three straight possessions, two of which were deep jump shots.
Tipton drilled a jumper just in front of the 3-point arc with 35 seconds left in the first half to give the Vikings a 12-point lead, at 35-23.
“I had my ups and downs but my team stayed with me. They helped me when I was at my weakest point, and at my highest point, I did it for them,” Tipton said. “As I’m coming down the floor I just try to play things out in my head. If I see an opening, I’m going to take it, but if I can take someone with me and get the ball to one of my teammates, I’m going to do that. I’m really just all about trying to get the win.”
The Wolves forced turnovers on five of the Vikings’ first six possessions of the third quarter, only to squander the opportunity by missing their first five field-goal attempts.
Ryan Dean dribbled through the lane and made a layup with 5:30 to play in the third quarter to finally put the Wolves on the board in the second half and cut Apollo-Ridge’s lead to 12 points, 37-23.
On the Vikings next possession, however, Tipton drove hard in the paint, soared over the 6-foot-1 Dean and pulled off a two-handed dunk to extend his team’s lead to 14 points, 39-25.
“They have several weapons on offensive and they shot the ball really well,” Nagy said. “Defensively we’re trying to cover their best players, (but) Tre takes a player-and-a-half to try to cover him, and you’ve got to leave somebody open. The Schrecengost kid knocked two threes down, and that’s something that we were willing to give up just hoping that him (Tipton) or Brown wouldn’t make those shots, and he (Schrecengost) knocked them down. That made it really tough to change what we wanted to do defensively.”