Mustangs fall short

PORTAGE – Conemaugh Township and Portage battled Tuesday night in a key WestPAC North matchup, and the game was close through three quarters, with the lead changing hands numerous times.

However, things changed in the fourth quarter.

Portage had numerous turnovers and had trouble putting the ball in the basket. While the Mustangs struggled offensively, the Indians found their stride, jumping out to a 10-point lead early in the final quarter and held off a late Portage rally to earn a 49-43 road victory.

“We had some untimely, I think is the best word, turnovers,” Portage coach Travis Kargo said. “We talked about that some of them were forced by pressure, but some of them were not, even to point where we would get a steal and turn it back over right away. When you have those types of turnovers, it’s tough to beat a team as good as Conemaugh Township.”

The Mustangs trailed 33-30 at the start of the fourth quarter, and Luke Dividock scored on their first possession to cut the lead to one point. The Mustangs then got a steal, but turned the ball right back to the Indians when a bad pass went out of bounds. Ben Wilson followed by hitting one if his game high five 3- pointers to push the Indians lead back to four points.

Jacob Swank followed with two foul shots to again cut the lead to two points, but the Indians used a 4-0 spurt to push the lead to 40-34.

The best example of play in the fourth quarter happed a few possession later. The Mustangs got a steal and turned it into a three-on-one fast break. However, a bad pass led to a blocked layup. The Indians turned the transition miscue into a basket of their own that pushed the lead to 42-34.

The lead bulged to 10 before the Mustangs mounted a late comeback, but Portage came up short.

“Portage is a tough place to play,” Township coach Chuck Lesko said. “Whatever kind of team they have, when we come up here they give us a good game. We knew that coming into tonight. They are having a little better year, and in their own gym I expected them to give us a good game, and they certainly did. In the fourth quarter I just felt that we executed our stuff a little bit better than we did in the other three quarters.”

Portage held a one-point lead after the first quarter, thanks to the efforts of Swank. He came off the bench to score seven points in the frame, including the Mustangs last five points of the quarter.

Portage would have held a larger lead if not for the efforts of Wilson. Wilson hit two treys and had eight points in the first quarter to keep the Indians close.

Wilson took over in the second quarter. He hit two more treys in the second frame, and his eight points in the quarter matched Portage’s team total. The Mustangs netted only two baskets in the quarter, allowing the Indians to take a halftime lead.

Despite their offensive struggles, they were tied with less than 2 minutes to play in the half. However, Conemaugh Township ended the half on a 5-0 run, including a deep 3-pointer by Wilson with 33 seconds left on the clock to take a 27-22 lead at intermission.

Both teams struggled in the third quarter. Portage held the Indians to only six points but scored only eight points itself.

Portage had two turnovers and four missed shots on its final four possession of the quarter, allowing Conemaugh Township to take the lead into the final quarter.

The loss was the third in a row for the Mustangs (14-5), who started with nine straight wins and held a 14-2 record one week ago.

“Our last couple of games, we have been in every game against very good basketball teams,” Kargo said. “That’s what you want. You want to get ready for the playoffs, and there’s no better way than playing your conference’s best night in and night out. Hopefully that will be the difference for us in making a playoff run.”

Randall led the Mustangs with 15 points, and Bryja added 10 points. Wilson’s hot shooting behind the arc netted him 21 points.

CONEMAUGH TOWNSHIP (49): Steeves 1 0-0 2, Wilson 6 4-4 21, Formica 4 2-4 10, Callihan 3 1-3 7, Speigle 1 0-0 2, Maurer 3 1-2 7, Valentine 0 0-0 0, Stahl 0 0-0 0, Hostetler 0 0-1 0. Totals 18 8-14 49.

PORTAGE (43): Onder 0 0-0 0, Kerch 0 2-2 2, Madigan 1 0-0 3, Randall 5 3-4 15, Bryja 4 0-0 10, Swank 2 4-4 9, Gruss 0 0-0 0, Dividock 2 0-1 4, St. Clair 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 9-11 43.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Conemaugh Twp.13 14 6 16-49

Portage14 8 8 13-43

3-point goals: Conemaugh Township 5 (Wilson 5); Portage 6 (Randall 2, Bryja 2, Madigan, Swank).

Records: Conemaugh Township (14-4, 11-2 WestPAC North); Portage (14-5, 7-3 WestPAC North).

JV: Conemaugh Township, 29-24.