LOYSBURG - Braden Hengst hadn't scored a point for Chestnut Ridge in the Lions' past two games and had just four points combined over his last four games.
Hengst doubled that output Wednesday night and provided the spark Chestnut Ridge needed to move into the driver's seat of the Sideling Hill League title race.
The Lions led by 10 points entering the fourth quarter and held off Northern Bedford County, 57-54.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Chestnut Ridge’s Matt Wiley puts up a shot around Northern Bedford’s Tayler Pressel.
"[Hengst] was huge," Chestnut Ridge coach Randy Meck said. "From the beginning of the year, Braden would be the first to tell you that he's unhappy with the minutes he got this year, but what I have noticed in the past three weeks is that he's starting to work harder at practice and add something to his game."
The junior guard had back-to-back 3-pointers in the first quarter to give Chestnut Ridge a lead it never relinquished and added another key layup in the second quarter when the Panthers pulled within two.
Ridge (16-5, 11-2 in Sideling Hill) must defeat Everett at home Friday to clinch sole possession of the Sideling Hill title. If the Lions lose, they will share the championship with NBC (17-4, 11-3 in Sideling Hill).
"We're one win away from winning our first Sideling Hill title ever at Chestnut Ridge," Meck said. "We set a goal at the beginning of the year to win a league title and a district title, and those goals haven't changed."
Ridge completed a regular-season sweep of Northern Bedford, though both games went down to the wire. The Lions won, 61-60, in New Paris earlier this season and held off a late NBC rally.
The same scenario took place Wednesday.
Northern Bedford used a suffocating full-court press to force 20 Chestnut Ridge turnovers and got clutch 3-pointers down the stretch to pull within two with 24.3 seconds left.
"In hindsight, yeah we should have went to the press earlier," said Northern Bedford coach Barry Crawford, who was denied his 200th career coaching win. "I think they have some seniors and good ball-handlers, so they aren't an easy team to press but desperation made our press a little better."
Ben Pick made one of two foul shots at the line with 20.6 seconds left to set up the final possession of the game.
The Black Panthers missed a pair of contested 3-pointers, but each time the ball went out of bounds off Ridge. With 1.6 seconds left, Garret England inbounded the ball and got it right back in the corner for an open look to tie the game. England's shot went halfway down before spinning out.
"Northern Bedford made some very tough shots," Meck said. "I thought England's shot in the final seconds was in from the corner, but I thought we did a great job on the boards. That was the difference."
The Lions outrebounded Northern Bedford, 40-33, and the 6-foot-4 Pick led the way with 13.
"I knew the pressure was on me, so I had to pull together and focus," Pick said. "I feel this is the best the team has played since we started, and we should go far once the playoffs start."
Both teams got balanced scoring from several players. Adam Wiley led Ridge with 13 points, Matt Wiley added 11 points and Beau Bosch had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Northern Bedford got 13 points each from Blake Over and Tayler Pressel and 10 points from Zane Snyder.
"We have a big game Saturday against Bellwood-Antis for the Inter-County Conference championship," Crawford said. "The kids are looking forward to that, and I think we're playing OK.
"Chestnut Ridge is a good team. They give us some matchup problems, but we're in a good place right now."
CHESTNUT RIDGE (57): M. Wiley 3 4-5 11, T. Wiley 0 3-4 3, Bosch 5 0-1 10, Pick 2 5-10 9, A. Wiley 5 2-2 13, Hengst 3 0-0 8, Weyant 1 0-0 3. Totals - 19 14-22 57.
NORTHERN BEDFORD (54): Snyder 3 2-2 10, Diehl 3 3-4 9, Over 5 0-0 13, Z. pressel 2 0-0 4, T. Pressel 5 2-2 13, England 0 0-0 0, Barnes 0 0-0 0, Litzenberger 2 0-0 5. Totals - 20 7-8 54.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Chestnut Ridge16 17 12 12 - 57
Northern Bedford14 12 9 19 - 54
3-point goals: Chestnut Ridge 5 (M. Wiley, A. Wiley, Hengst 2, Weyant); Northern Bedford 7 (Over 3, Snyder 2, T. Pressel, Litzenberger).
Records: Chestnut Ridge (16-5, 11-2 in Sideling Hill); Northern Bedford (17-4, 11-3 in Sideling Hill).
Officials: Don Donaldson, Joe Scialabba, Craig Elbin