EBENSBURG - Coming off a crushing loss to Bishop Carroll in the District 6 Class A semifinals, Juniata Valley coach Ron Anders was concerned about how his team would react playing in the consolation game Friday night against Conemaugh Valley.
"The game the other night was rough, but I really thought our guys played a full four quarters tonight," Anders said.
The Hornets did indeed play a full four quarters. However, they came up just short in the final minutes, thanks to some clutch free-throw shooting by Conemaugh Valley, losing 48-44 and missing out on a trip to the state playoffs."
"We showed our Conemaugh Valley pride tonight," CV coach Jim Preuss said. "Those guys were not going to let this one slip away from them, I'm proud of these kids."
Conemaugh Valley started the game out strong, going up quickly on the Hornets, 7-2, to open the first quarter. However, after some early missed layups, the Hornets settled down and finished the quarter on a 15-6 run to go up 17-13 after one quarter.
"I definitely thought we were the more athletic team tonight," Anders said. "But we had a lot of missed early layups, we could have really put the game away early."
Neither team established any kind of dominance in the second quarter, as Juniata Valley clung to a 25-23 lead at halftime. However, the Hornets took some control over the game in the third quarter, getting scoring contributions from five different players as they entered the final frame with a 36-30 lead.
Conemaugh Valley then woke up for the first time since the opening frame, going on a 7-1 run and tying the score at 37 with 6:20 to go.
"You started to see the pride those kids have in themselves in that fourth quarter," Preuss said. "You could see it in their eyes that they were not going to let this one slip away."
The final blow from the Blue Jays came from forward Brandon Kendera. With the score tied at 44 with less than 1 minute to play, he was fouled on the way to the basket. He calmly sank two free throws to put the Blue Jays up, 46-44. The Hornets had one more chance but missed several layups with Conemaugh Valley coming up with the eventual rebound and Kendera hitting two more foul shots to set the final.
"I'm proud of these kids, especially the seniors," Anders said. "I came up with this senior class since the seventh grade, and it's gonna be real hard to go into the locker room and talk to them after this game."
Conemaugh Valley's Dalton Uncapher led all scorers with 21 points, while Juniata Valley was led by John Pilch, who had 14. Juniata Valley finished the season 17-8, while Conemaugh Valley rose to 16-10 and enters the state playoffs.
Juniata Valley (44): Carper 4 0-0 10, Pilch 4 5-9 14 Rojik 2 2-2 8, Gildea 1 0-0 2, Borst 2 1-2 6, Varner 1 2-2 4, Grissinger 0 0-0 0, Taylor 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 10-15 44.
Conemaugh Valley (48): Furman 5 2-2 14, Graham 2 1-2 6, Kendera 1 4-4 6, Uncapher 5 9-13 21, N. Roberts 0 0-2 0, J. Roberts 0 0-0 0, Totals 13 16-23 48.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Juniata Valley17 8 11 8 44
Conemaugh Valley13 10 7 17 48
3-point goals: Juniata Valley 6 (Carper 2, Rojik 2, Pilch, Borst); Conemaugh Valley 5 (Furman 2, Uncapher 2, Graham).
Records: Juniata Valley (17-8); Conemaugh Valley (16-10).