Hornets bounce back to beat West Branch

ALEXANDRIA — For Juniata Valley, it was a reversal of offensive fortune on Thursday night.

The Hornets, fresh off a Monday night loss to conference rival Bellwood-Antis in which they combined for just 15 points in the opening half, were prepared to not let that kind of performance dampen their spirits, and it showed with the efforts of Cameron Collins and Quinn Zinobile, who combined for 50 of Juniata Valley’s total output in an 83-63 win over West Branch.

Zinobile finished the night as the game’s leading scorer with 27 points.

“We pushed the floor well, we played defense well. We scored a lot in transition, and I think that really helped us,” Zinobile said.

Zinobile said that the shooting was something Juniata Valley worked on during the previous few days, and it paid off. As a team, the Hornets had 13 shots from beyond the 3-point line versus one on Monday, and finished with 32 total buckets.

“We really didn’t make anything against Bellwood, and we came out tonight and were on fire, basically,” Zinobile said. “We’re competing for the top spot in the Inter-County Conference, so we needed this one to be able to at least compete for that.”

Hornet coach T.J. Anderson complimented Zinobile on his overall development over the past month. Zinobile said that he’s nearly back to 100 percent after suffering an injury during the end of football season, and now he’s just working to get into basketball form.

“He can stretch you out, he can go both ways. He can handle (the ball) like a guard, so his skill development has been through the roof lately,” Anderson said.

Despite falling into a 4-0 hole at the start, Juniata Valley picked things up quickly. Zinobile and Devin Deihl each dropped two buckets from 3-point range in the opening minutes, and Zinobile was also a strong presence inside on the boards and in the paint, putting up 18 points in the first half.

Collins hit the first two of his four 3-pointers in the first 90 seconds of the second quarter to force West Branch to take a timeout with the Hornets up 30-15. Juniata Valley continued to expand to, at times, a 20-point lead with help from Jaxson Rand and Paul Leri to help the Hornets go up 44-27 at the half.

“We came out fast,” Collins said. “I think from the Bellwood game we wanted a little revenge, so we just came out fast and just never stopped.”

Anderson said the game plan was to try and slow down West Branch’s Larry Cowder, which he said was the key to the game. Cowder finished the night with 13 points, while David Guerra did most of the Warriors’ heavy lifting, finishing with 23 points.

“They played well tonight,” Anderson said of his team’s performance. “We came out and stuck to the game plan, which worked tonight and got us a win. The key was to slow Larry down if we could or shave him as much as possible, and that seemed to work tonight.

“We capitalized when we needed to, and I believe we won all quarters. So it was a good night. I like to see nights like that. I don’t like to see nights like the other night where we couldn’t hit a church with a rock.”

West Branch coach Danny Clark said that while people look to Cameron Collins as one of the Inter-County Conference’s best players (he finished the night with 23 points), Zinobile is the motor for the Hornets.

“I think Cam is the best player in the ICC. People always look at Cam, but I think Quinn is what makes that team go,” Clark said of Zinobile. “We knew he could shoot, but we really weren’t expecting that. He’s tough inside anyway, so when you can knock four down, that’s a huge swing in momentum.”

Clark said his team’s biggest problem was keeping up with the Hornet’s scoring output in a game where they were battling as one of team’s that had just one loss in ICC play so far.

“There were just more shots. We would get a stop, then they would go and have three good possessions,” Clark said. “We’re a veteran team, too. Last year our two games (with Juniata Valley), we both have the same exact teams, and it was within six points in both games.

“Not a good showing by us,” Clark continued, “but we were both coming off losses. I thought we were playing with energy tonight, but just their being able to run the court, they’re just a little more athletic, a little more faster than us and they were beating us to our spots.”

WEST BRANCH (63): D. Guerra 10 2-2 23, Cowder 5 1-2 13, Fluck 5 1-2 11, Gutierrez 2 0-2 5, Arnold 2 0-0 4, Eboch 0 0-0 0, Kristofits 1 0-0 2, Kolesar 2 0-0 5. Totals–27 4-8 63.

JUNIATA VALLEY (83): Collins 8 3-3 23, Zinobile 10 3-4 27, Hensor 0 0-0 0, Jax. Rand 6 0-0 13, Leri 2 0-0 4, Deihl 4 0-0 11, Reihart 0 0-0 0, Musser 0 0-0 0, Rupert 1 0-0 3, Jay. Rand 1 0-0 2. Totals–32 6-7 83.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

West Branch 15 12 16 18 — 63

Juniata Valley 24 20 17 22 — 83

3-point goals: West Branch 5 (D. Guerra, Cowder 2, Gutierrez, Kolesar); Junita Vallley 13 (Collins 4, Zinobile 4, Jax. Rand, Deihl 3, Rupert).

Records: West Branch (5-4, 5-2 ICC); Juniata Valley (6-4, 5-1 ICC)

JV: Juniata Valley 65-60. High scorers–Gary Beck, JV, 17; Travis Rothrock, WB, 28.

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