LOYSBURG - Tradition favored Chestnut Ridge in its District 5-AA semifinal basketball playoff game with Northern Bedford on Wednesday night.
But the law of averages favored the Black Panthers.
Chestnut Ridge boasted wins in its last eight games with Northern Bedford, including two this past regular season.
But the Black Panthers came up big on their home court in the fourth quarter Wednesday and punched a ticket into the District 5-AA championship game by scoring a 58-51 win over Ridge at the Northern Bedford County High School gymnasium.
With senior forward Tayler Pressel scoring nine of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, Northern Bedford carried the final period, 22-15.
Second-seeded Northern Bedford (19-5) will face top-seeded Conemaugh Township at 6 p.m. Saturday at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Sports Complex for the district championship and the right to move on to the state playoffs next week.
Conemaugh Township advanced by defeating Tussey Mountain, 68-55, in Wednesday's other District 5-AA semifinal matchup.
Pressel, a three-year starter for Northern, was happy about his team breaking its losing streak against Ridge.
"It feels good that we finally beat them,'' he said after accounting for five consecutive points midway through the fourth period to expand Northern's lead from a tenuous two points (41-39) to seven points, 46-39.
Pressel scored on a putback and converted a three-point play after he was fouled, giving Northern a 44-39 advantage with 4:56 left. About a minute later, he deposited a nice assist from senior teammate Kyler Diehl to give the Panthers the 46-39 advantage.
"My teammates did a good job getting me the ball, and luckily, I made the shots I was given,'' said Pressel, who also grabbed nine rebounds in the game.
Northern Bedford coach Barry Crawford thought the sequence was pivotal.
"That was big,'' Crawford said. "We moved the ball around, and hit the open shots.''
Northern Bedford shot 50 percent (21 of 42) from the floor, and most of the Black Panthers' chances were from the key area or closer to the basket.
"We didn't settle for a lot of outside shots,'' Crawford said. "We did a good job of moving the ball around and taking it to the basket, and finishing around the rim. We also played very good defense.''
Northern's defense forced Ridge into a bevy of high-percentage shots. The Lions, who finished the season 18-6, converted just 34 percent (18 of 53) of their shots from the floor.
"I thought that was the difference,'' Ridge coach Randy Meck said of his team's shooting troubles. "Northern Bedford's defense got us out of rhythm in the third quarter, and we took some off-balance shots. We didn't lack for effort - we played hard, but we lost to a good Northern Bedford team today.''
The lead went back and forth throughout the second and third quarters after Northern built a 13-5 lead early in the first period. The Black Panthers led 26-25 at halftime and 36-34 after three periods.
Following Pressel's five-point, fourth-quarter flurry that gave the Panthers the 46-39 advantage, Ridge could get no closer than to within five points the rest of the way.
Northern got 10 points from junior Blake Over. Ridge, which fashioned a 30-27 edge in rebounds, got 14 points and 10 rebounds from Ben Pick, and 11 points from Adam Wiley, both of whom are the team's only graduating seniors.
Crawford expects a stiff test from Conemaugh Township in Saturday's title game. Township has lost just two games this season, but one of those setbacks came to the Black Panthers at the UPJ Mountain Cat Tournament back in mid-December.
"That was a long time ago,'' Crawford said. "Both teams are significantly different now. [Saturday's game] is going to be a challenge. At this time of year, it should be.''
CHESTNUT RIDGE (51): A. Wiley 4 2-4 11, Pick 6 2-6 14, Bosch 3 2-3 8, T. Wiley 2 1-2 7, M. Wiley 2 4-6 8, Weyant 0 0-0 0, Hengst 1 0-0 3. Totals - 18 11-21 51.
NORTHERN BEDFORD (58): Z. Pressel 2 1-2 5, T. Pressel 8 4-4 21, Over 3 2-6 10, Diehl 4 0-3 8, Snyder 3 1-2 8, England 0 0-0 0, Litzenberger 1 2-2 4, Barnes 1 0-0 2. Totals - 22 10-16 58.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Chestnut Ridge8 17 9 15 - 51
Northern Bedford13 13 12 22 - 58
3-point goals: Chestnut Ridge 4 (T. Wiley 2, A. Wiley, Hengst); Northern Bedford 4 (Over 2, T. Pressel, Snyder).
Records: Chestnut Ridge (18-6); Northern Bedford (19-5).
Officials: Sam Zambanini, Craig Elbin, Rod Jarvis.