EBENSBURG - The Juniata Valley High School boys basketball team is hoping that ending the 2012-13 season with two games it might rather forget will sew the seeds for a memorable 2013-14 campaign.
"It will give us good experience. Very good experience," said junior guard and top scorer Caleb Taylor, one of four underclassmen starting for the Green Hornets. "We have a lot of young players."
With only two seniors on the team, the Hornets should be one of the best teams in the North Division of the Inter-County Conference next year. That's the silver lining after Valley followed up a 41-point loss to top-seeded Bishop Carroll in the semifinals with a 75-33 defeat at the hands of third-seeded Homer-Center in the District 6 Class A consolation game on Thursday night at Bishop Carroll High School.
Juniata Valley finished 15-10. The Green Hornets were the fifth seed entering the playoffs but reached the semifinals by upsetting fourth-seeded Blacklick Valley in the quarterfinals.
"We had an uphill battle the last two games, but we have a young team, and it's good for us. We got three playoff games this year," Hornets coach Ron Anders said. "We weren't even sure before the season if we were going to make the playoffs."
It was clear pretty early on that Valley was outmatched on Wednesday, though. Homer-Center (19-6) had a 21-point lead less than two minutes into the second quarter. Helped by their ability to get turnovers and to get out and run, the Wildcats made 17 of their first 26 shots.
"Our biggest problem was their quickness," Anders said. "They're quicker, bigger, taller, more athletic than our team. They had a lot of mismatches. Their press is outstanding. Turnovers early killed us, and they convert turnovers into points just like that."
Wing Joe Capitosti did most of the damage for Homer. After having a hard time getting anything to fall in Monday night's semifinal loss to Bishop Guilfoyle, Capitosti had 20 points at halftime by making 9-of-12 shots. He finished with 28.
"Everything fell. It was great," said Capitosti, who also made four steals. "We were moving the ball around a lot and getting the ball up the floor. That's basically all we needed to do. We should have done that against Bishop Guilfoyle."
Darren Carr added 18 points for the Wildcats, who received scoring from 12 players and outrebounded the Hornets, 40-28.
"We wish we had that Bishop Guilfoyle game back, but it's not going to come back. But I think Bishop Guilfoyle might have made us better for tonight, because we went back with our press a little bit," Homer-Center coach Bob Rado said.
Taylor was the only Hornet to score in double figures, netting 12, while seniors Ryan Norris and Brett Grissinger tossed in nine and seven points, respectively. Valley was held to 13-of-52 shooting and turned the ball over 20 times.
"These teams were fast, and they pressured us. That will help us next year with the playoffs. We'll get playoff speed," said Taylor, who played all season with a torn labrum from last summer. "It was tough. You had to work harder for a shot, definitely."
Sophomore guards Kordell Collins and Aaron Maysonet will return to Valley's starting lineup next year, as will center Jason Shawver, another 10th grader.
"Overall, I'm happy with the team," Anders said. "It's tough when you get blown out the last two games, but you can't forget the process."
HOMER-CENTER (75): Jones 1 0-0 2, D. Carr 8 2-3 18, I. Carr 2 0-0 5, Joe Capitosti 13 0-0 28, Miller 0 0-0 0, Della Penna 2 0-0 4, Berezansky 1 0-0 2, Wilden 1 0-0 2, Gaydosh 0 0-0 0, Caruso 2 0-0 4, Skultety 1 0-0 3, John Capitosti 0 0-0 0, Popovich 1 0-0 3, Ireland 1 0-0 2, Wolford 0 0-0 0, McLoughlin 1 0-0 2, Black 0 0-0 0, Pollack 0 0-0 0. Totals - 34 2-3 75.
JUNIATA VALLEY (33): Collins 1 0-0 2, B. Grissinger 3 1-2 7, Taylor 5 1-2 12, Maysonet 0 0-0 0, Shawver 1 0-2 2, Norris 3 0-0 9, Gable 0 0-0 0, Grove 0 0-0 0, Gildea 0 0-0 0, T. Grissinger 0 1-2 1, Pilch 0 0-0 0, Barton 0 0-0 0. Totals - 13 3-8 33.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Homer-Center21 19 16 19-75
Juniata Valley 8 7 9 9 - 33
3-point goals: Homer-Center 5 (Joe Capitosti 2, I. Carr, Skultety, Popovich); Juniata Valley 4 (Taylor, Norris 3).
Officials: Ray Wotkowski, Bill Correll, Denny Gramling.
Team records: Homer-Center (19-6); Juniata Valley (15-10).