HOLLIDAYSBURG - When Portage junior Michael Bryja hit a 3-pointer with a little more than two minutes remaining, it gave the Mustangs a 51-49 lead after trailing for most of the game Thursday night.
It was the last points they registered.
Gordon Gable found Kordell Collins for a layup to tie the game and assisted Caleb Taylor on the game-winning shot as time expired as Juniata Valley held on to edge Portage, 53-51, in the District 6 Class A quarterfinals at Hollidaysburg Area High School.
Mirror photos by Patrick Waksmunski
Juniata Valley’s Caleb Taylor looks for a loose ball in front of several Portage players Thursday night.
Gable passed to Taylor on an inbounds play and the senior guard rose above a Portage defender and found nothing but net to set up a matchup with Bishop Carroll in the semifinals next week.
"We practiced [the play] a couple of times," Taylor said. "[Jason Shawver] set a screen on a guy in the zone and did a good job. [Gordon Gable] passed it to me, and I made a nice shot."
Collins' tying layup and Taylor's game-winner were Valley's only two field goals of the fourth quarter, as the Hornets held off a resilient Portage squad.
Taylor, Gable and Shawver each had 12 points for Juniata Valley, and Collins added 10.
"We got out of our offense a little bit," Juniata Valley coach Ron Anders said of his team's fourth quarter offense. "It took us longer than I liked, and I called some timeouts to get organized. The kids listened and did a good job out of the timeouts."
Jason Shawver had just two first-half points after receiving his second foul early in the second quarter, but came alive with nine points in the third quarter to spark the Hornets to a 46-41 lead heading to the final frame.
"We talked to [Shawver] at halftime," Anders said. "Bryja is a kid big, but Jason had the weight advantage and I thought he could have his presence made. We talked and said he needed to put his stamp on the game, to be aggressive and I thought he did that."
Portage found itself trailing 24-18 half way through the second quarter after two Caleb Taylor baskets, but Bryja scored seven of his 15 points in the final three minutes of the half to go into the break down 30-27.
Cody Randall and Luke Dividock each added eight points for the Mustangs.
"Michael has played in a lot of games," Portage coach Travis Kargo said. "He hit a couple big shots that brought us back into the game."
Juniata Valley built its biggest lead of the game at 43-36 after two Trent Grissinger free throws, but the Mustangs rallied to take the two-point lead with Bryja's 3-pointer.
Neither team scored more than six consecutive points in the game.
"We were just two quality teams," Kargo said. "The kids played extremely hard and gave tremendous effort. It was a great high school basketball game, but we cane our on the short end."
Portage loses four seniors after the loss, with each of its losses coming from teams that have won a playoff game this season.
"It was a lot of fun," Kargo said. "We worked hard and came out with something to prove and I think we proved a lot of people wrong."
PORTAGE (51): Bryja 7 1-2 15, Randall 4 1-2 10, Swank 1 5-7 7, Dividock 4 2-2 10, Kerch 1 0-0 2, Madigan 1 0-0 2, Onder 1 0-0 2. Totals - 19 10-13 51.
JUNIATA VALLEY (53): Taylor 6 0-0 12, Collins 4 2-2 10, Gable 4 0-0 12, Shawver 3 3-4 12, Grove 0 0-0 0, Gildea 1 0-0 2, Grissinger 0 2-2 2, Pilch 0 0-0 0, Barton 1 0-0 3. Totals - 20 7-10 53.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Portage14 13 14 10 - 51
Juniata Valley15 15 16 7 - 53
3-point goals: Portage 3 (Bryja 2, Randall); Juniata Valley 6 (Gable 4, Barton, Shawver).
Records: Portage (15-7); Juniata Valley (19-5).