T-D HS Basketball

Conemaugh Township wins WestPAC boys title

By: Cory Isenberg

Sometimes, a short memory is a good thing.
Conemaugh Township’s boys’ basketball team lost  to Richland on Friday night, but the Indians were able to put that into their rear-view mirror on Saturday, and take care of business against Shanksville-Stonycreek in the WestPAC title game at the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center.
The North Division winner handed the Vikings a 57-47 loss.
“We obviously didn’t play our best on Friday night,” said Conemaugh Township coach Chuck Lesko, whose team last won the WestPAC crown in 2012. “Even this morning we came in for a little shoot around and we really didn’t talk business. We just let them goof around and have a little bit of fun. We just kind of wanted to put things behind us. Luckily that paid off.”
Jeff Callihan topped the Indians’ scoring with 13 points and Luke Maurer came off the bench to add 12.
The Vikings’ Joe Hudak scored a game-high 20 points and added nine rebounds while Ryan Platt, the lone senior on the squad, supplied 18 points.
Tied at the intermission, the third quarter was key for the Indians, who outscored Shanksville 22-9 to take a commanding 41-28 lead into the fourth.
“In the third quarter, we found our rhythm offensively and were able to knock down some shots,” Lesko said. “I think Ben Wilson and Austin Speigle were both able to hit a 3-pointer and it seemed to open up the dam for us.”
Meanwhile, the Conemaugh Township defense was disrupting the play of the Shanksville offense. After a tie at 21, the Indians forged ahead in the third quarter and never looked back.
“I thought we had a good game plan and I thought the boys executed well in the first half,” Vikings coach Robert Snyder said. “The second half, we kind of got out of it a little bit. Coach (Wayne) Long said we had five turnovers in our first six possessions of the third quarter and it’s pretty hard to do anything positive when that happens. I thought we rushed our shots and didn’t make good choices.”
Snyder said his team likes to attack the rim, but was settling for outside shots.
“We were hesitant when we did get it inside, but that’s a credit to Township and their size and physicality,” the Shanksville coach said. “We just didn’t adjust.”
The Indians led by as many as 16 points, taking their biggest lead on a pair of Maurer field goals with 2:47 left. Two 3-pointers by Hudak and one by Platt helped the Vikings narrow the gap to 10 points at the end.
Both teams played cautiously in the first quarter with Shanksville taking a 14-8 advantage.
In the second quarter, the Indians defense held the Vikings to just five points. Conemaugh Township took its first lead of the contest on a conventional 3-point play with 31.2 seconds left before the half.
Joe Hudak hit one of two free throws for Shanksville to even the game at 19 at the intermission.
But the Vikings had three starters with two fouls each at the half including Hudak, Ben Bittner and Jake Wilt while Conemaugh Township had Jake Formica with three, and Austin Speigle and Evan Steeves with two each.
“Our bench did an admirable job of coming in and maintaining if not picking up the pace for us a little bit,” Lesko said. “We’ve been preaching all year and sometimes the kids on the bench might get a little frustrated, but we tell them all the time their moment is going to come and you have to be ready for it. I thought our bench did a very workmanlike job tonight in helping guys that were in foul trouble.”
The Indians had four new starters on the floor after last season, and many did not expect this group to even advance to the championship, much less win it.
“For this team it was one of their goals to reclaim the WestPAC crown,” the Indians’ coach said. “I give this group credit because they’ve been working hard all year long. When they play together, good things happen.”
Both Shanksville and Conemaugh Township advance to next week’s District 5 playoffs, the Vikings in Class A and the Indians in Class AA.